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THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
and Theological Dialogue
TABLE OF CONTENTS
II. The Orthodox Church
B) The Common Faith
C) Church Government
III. The Church of Christ
A) Fundamental Principle
Dialogue Between Two Spiritual Perspectives.
A) A common departure point
B) A question of authority
C) A basis of unity
The church which believes herself to
be the heir of the ancient undivided church, remaining in the faith and
orders of the first ages of Christianity, is called "Orthodox" or
"Eastern." Both of these names distinguish her from, and contrast her with
the "Western" church, or "Roman Catholic Church," which has excommunicated
her, as well as from the Protestant communities which have seceded from
the latter. The name "Orthodox Church" expresses the idea that she is the
Church of Christ which maintains correct belief as inherited from the
The Orthodox Church consists of
believers organized into fourteen self-governing churches completely
independent in regard to internal administration. These self-governing
groups constitute one body, inasmuch as they possess (1) a common faith,
(2) the same principles of government, and (3) the same basis of worship.
The churches of Christ forms a
world-wide community of believers who, though in close communion, have no
structural organization except the local independent assembly. There are a
growing number of these groups throughout Albania who desire to be known
simply as Christians, and who worship and work together as the Body
(church) of Christ. As will be seen in the following article and dialogue,
the two groups have much in common and share many fundamental beliefs. At
the same time, there are differences which have great importance such as
the question of authority.
The reader is asked to approach this
dialogue with an open mind and with a sincere desire to learn the "truth".
This approach can be frightening as we do not know where such a path will
lead us. What is important is that we be convinced that the One who is
Truth be the One who is leading us! The right conclusion will not lead us
to danger but will lead us to eternal life.
THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
What is today known as the
Orthodox Church developed historically from the church of the Eastern
Roman or Byzantine Empire. Because of this, the main influence upon
Orthodoxy has been that of Greece. The Orthodox world first became limited
on its Eastern side as a consequence of the Monophysite and Nestorian
schisms during the 5th and 6th centuries. As a result, the "patriarchs" of
Alexandria and Antioch were greatly reduced in numbers and importance. It
should be noted that the Monophysite Churches such as the Syrian Jacobite,
the Coptic, and the Ethiopian, also call themselves by the title
"Orthodox." Then, from the 9th century onwards, there came an increasing
estrangement between the two great "sees, of Rome and Constantinople. This
eventually led to an open and lasting schism.
The final breach between the Greek
and Latin groups is usually assigned to the year 1045. A great missionary
advance was inaugurated in the middle of the 9th century. Bulgaria,
Serbia, and subsequently Russia were converted to the Orthodox faith,
largely through the efforts of Byzantine missionaries. In due course,
these Slavic countries acquired national Churches of their own,
independent of the Mother Church of Constantinople. However, the
Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople continues to retain his honorary
The Common Faith
The Orthodox Church claims an
unbroken continuity with the teachings and practices of the earlier church
of which it was a part. These teachings and practices were developed by
creeds. The Orthodox Church likes to affirm herself as the guardian of the
true faith, the faith of the early fathers of the church and of the
ecumenical councils. The written witness was given to a community which
had been founded by the apostles, and it is claimed that this community
had received the same Spirit as the apostles.
According to the Orthodox Church,
the common faith of the Church is taken from two sources of revelation:
(1) The Bible, (2) Traditions - what they say has been understood and
interpreted through their hierarchy, either assembled in Synods, or by
themselves teaching each the same doctrine. The basis of dogmatic
instructions are the dogmatic decisions of the Ecumenical Councils. In the
Orthodox Church, theology and mysticism mutually support and supplement
each other. One is impossible without the other.
Transformation is achieved by
dying and rising with Christ in baptism. This is conferred on infants in
the form of a triple immersion in the water as the names of the three
Persons are invoked. It is taught that the seal of the Spirit is received
in confirmation. The Church believes that baptism and confirmation belong
together and are conferred at the same time.
They believe one becomes a member
of the actual body of Christ in the Eucharist. This "Supper" can only be
presided over by one person, the priest. It is generally celebrated only
four or five times a year.
The doctrine of original sin is
interpreted to mean that countless generations of men have been affected
by the consequences of Adam's sin. A man, though, is not personally guilty
because of this original fault. Redemption, which God granted in Jesus
Christ, is available through the church and by means of the church.
Icons are objects of veneration
and honor but not of real worship. Some of the icons have been regarded as
miraculous and this exception status has been recognized as such by the
church. Special feasts commemorating them have been instituted. There are
prayers made to saints and they are asked to intercede before God. The
Orthodox Church rejects the doctrine of purgatory. There is the practice
of praying for the dead. The church does not accept the Immaculate
Conception or the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary. She is exalted as
the Mother of God and is called on to make intercession with the Son and
with God Himself.
The second chain binding the
self-governing Churches into one is the common principles of government.
These principles are supported by the holy canons, among whom the most
important is one entitled Nomocanon by Photius. This canon was sanctioned
in 920 by a great Council in Constantinople, and was proclaimed as having
authority over all the Eastern Church. Orthodox believes in the hierarchy
structure of the church, apostolic succession, the episcopate, and the
priesthood. The words of Peter in Matthew 16 are not considered related
exclusively to the bishops of Rome as the Roman Catholic Church does. They
teach that all who imitate Peter and make the same confession inherit the
According to the principles of
Orthodox government, the head of the church is Jesus Christ; but the
believers are divided into clergy (archpriests, priests, and deacons), and
laity. The center of each church is the bishop, but the basis of the
administration of the self-governing churches is the Synodical system.
Although both married and unmarried men may be priest, they
are generally married. The church has never insisted upon the celibacy of
Any service can be performed in
any language, not just in Latin as the Roman Catholic Church required.
Preaching of the Divine Word, for the explanation and imparting of
Christian truth, which was anciently an inseparable part of public
worship, has now almost disappeared. The veneration of icons plays a
notable part in Orthodox worship. Prayers to the Mother of God and the
Saints are common in a worship service or liturgy, as it is called. The
music of the church is only vocal. Instrumental music and graven images
The Orthodox Church accepts seven
sacraments: baptism, chrismatation (similar to confirmation), the
Eucharist, repentance or confession, holy orders, marriage, and anointing
of the sick. The Orthodox Church summons all believers to a return to the
faith of the Apostles, the Fathers, and the Ecumenical Counsels, which
they claims to have preserved in its fullness.
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
The Fundamental Principle
Why do you believe what you
believe about Jesus Christ, about salvation in Him, and about His church?
Why are you a member of the Orthodox Church or some other religious group?
By what authority are you being guided?
The fundamental principle followed
by members of the church of Christ is that Jesus Christ is our only
authority. The Bible demands that we should have divine authority for
everything we do in service to God. It is important and fundamental that
we know the meaning of authority in religion. You are urged to carefully
examine all of our beliefs and practices so that you can determine whether
or not we have divine authority for them. We ask you read very carefully
Does the Orthodox Church come from
heaven of men? Does the church of Christ come from heaven or men? Dear
friend, because of the differences between them, the logical conclusion is
that either both come from men, or one comes from men and the other comes
from heaven. It is important that we discover which it might be.
In the churches of Christ, there
is a desire to continually examine doctrine and actions to see if they
come from men or from heaven. When it is found that the source is
man-made, we make every possible effort to bring that doctrine or that
practice into line with the authority of Jesus and the Bible. We seek to
make sure that we believe, worship, and practice like the church we read
about in the New Testament.
When did the church of Christ
begin? Who was her founder? What did she teach and believe? How did she
worship? Normal questions! Every movement or group has a beginning and a
founder. So it is with the church.
Jesus said, "1 will build My
church " (Matthew 16:18). There are two points from this short
phrase. First, it is to be in the future from when it was said. Second, it
will belong to Christ. Later in the New Testament, we read that the church
began on the day of Pentecost after the resurrection and the ascension of
Through the apostles' teaching as
they were inspired by the Holy Spirit, this church continued to develop
and grow in the first century. By the end of New Testament times, the
Bible was completed and was the divine model of that church. They
practiced "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians
4:4-6). Since those first centuries, many men have changed and distorted
the church begun by Jesus and His apostles. Which church accepts only the
teachings of Jesus and the apostles given in the Bible?
Membership depends on Fatherhood.
The church is "the house of God" (1 Timothy
3:15). This is a way to say the "family of God." To be a
member of His family, we have to be born into it. This birth is
accomplished through water and Spirit (John 3:5) and is what happens at
the time of a believers' baptism (Romans 6:3-5). The Father accepts
us into His church when we fulfill the conditions of the new birth. This
obedient faith becomes the means of eternal salvation with God. Two
Scriptures from the Holy Book are important here:
(Christ) became the
source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him" (Hebrews 5:9).
'You are sons of God through faith
in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed
yourselves with Christ" (Galatians
This membership into the church of
Christ is only made possible by God. It has nothing to do with man's
acceptance. God adds the saved to that group which has gladly accepted
only the authority of Jesus and His apostles as given in the Bible (Acts
2:47). Faith comes from hearing the word (Romans 10:17). Faith leads to
obedience to what is read.
Membership in the church of
Christ, then, is a response of faith to the authority of Christ who
instructed such believers to repent (change their way of living), and be
baptized (immersed in water) for the forgiveness (remission) of their
The head of the church is Jesus
Christ. She belongs to him and He guides her as her head. The term
"patriarch" or "Archbishop" are nowhere found in the Holy Scriptures.
There are also no headquarters of the church on earth given in the Bible.
Heaven is the "headquarters" of the church of Christ. The
church of Christ recognizes no synods, councils, or human church
Another remarkable characteristic
of the church in the Bible is that every local group of believers was
totally autonomous. This is the only government of the church found in the
The Bible also defines the way
that the local body of believers are to be organized, with pastors
(elders), deacons, teachers, and evangelists (Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy
3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). In the church of Christ there is no distinction
between a group called the "clergy" and another called the "laity."
In the New Testament church of
Christ the baptized believers "devoted themselves to the apostles'
teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer"
(Acts 2:42). The worship of the church is a balance of word and
Preaching is a fundamental need
(Romans 10:14). Prayer is needed constantly. Singing is a type of praise
told about in the Holy Scriptures. The Communion (Lord's Supper) is
regularly observed. It is symbolic of the body and blood of Jesus who died
one time for all on the cross. In the churches of Christ, the Lord's
Supper (Communion) is observed each Sunday, or first day of the week; as
is told in the Holy Scriptures (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:17-21;
16:1-2). This Lord's Supper will be shared by God's people until the Son
returns to take His bride, the church, to heaven with Him.
The weekly assembly of the church
is considered to be an appropriate time, according to I Corinthians
16:1-2, to receive an offering from the members to the work of the church.
There is no set amount which each member must give, but the principles of
joy and freedom are encouraged. The apostles' teachings about the offering
do not allow for public sales, tickets sold for entertainment, or other
means of raising money as the way to support the church of our Lord. The
money is to be given by the members not the people of the world.
The meetings of the church of
Christ provide opportunities for mutual encouragement, for study of the
Holy Scriptures, for sharing the Lord's Supper, and for praise of the
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is what the church of Christ continues
to do today. This does not mean that there is no private Bible Study and
worship on a daily basis.
A DIALOGUE BETWEEN TWO PERSPECTIVES
In view of the existence of many groups of believers,
known as the Orthodox Church and other names and also the church of
Christ, how are we to consider their differences? Can we speak of a "true"
church of Christ and, on the other hand, of churches which no longer
reflect the image of the Body of Christ as taught in the Bible? A series
of questions and answers will help us better understand the differences.
Q. What is the fundamental
difference between the Orthodox Church and the church of Christ?
A. There can be no unity if there
is no common authority. This does not exist between the two groups. The
authority of the Orthodox Church is the pronouncements of the church
fathers, the ecumenical councils, church canons, and the ecclesiastical
synods. The church of Christ approves no belief or practice that is not
found in the teachings of the New Testament. The "authority" of the
Orthodox Church has created a religious organization that, in many ways,
has no relationship with the church Jesus founded.
Q. What are some examples of this?
A. There are many ways that are
evident. First, consider the question of the baptism of babies. The form
of baptism in the Orthodox Church is foreign to the New Testament. Only
those who could "believe" and "repent" were baptized. Babies cannot
believe nor repent. The churches of Christ only baptize those who are old
enough to believe and repent.
Another example is that of the
organization of the church. The Orthodox Church has been influenced by the
decisions of several councils which finally lead to the modern structure
of a hierarchical system. Though it does not terminate with a "pope" as
does the Roman Catholic Church. It does have regional or national "popes"
with the Patriarch of Constantinople having honorary primacy. This system
is nowhere to be found in the Bible. The church of Christ only accepts the
organization given in the Scriptures.
Q. Why does it seem in the
church of Christ that Mary, the mother of Jesus has an inferior role?
A. Mary does not have an inferior
role to that which the Scriptures give her. She was a blessed woman to
have been chosen to be the mother of the Son of God. All generations have
spoken of her as such. Other than being the physical mother of Jesus,
however, she was only a disciple as were others who came to accept Jesus
as the Messiah. The Bible never says Mary was without sin. No
miracles were ever associated with her, and there is no biblical
indication of an "earthly assumption" without death at the and of her life
on earth. Any teachings that places Mary in these roles are a result of
"tradition" and not based on the Holy Scriptures. This is a good example
of the different practices that develop when on the one hand only the
Bible serves as authority, and on the other hand when "tradition" is
allowed to develop doctrinal systems.
Q. What do you see as the most
serious differences between the church of Christ and the Orthodox Church?
A. Although the differences of
organization and worship are important, that which has the most serious
consequences is the question of how and when we become a child of God. It
is the question of how and when we are saved.
In a sense the Orthodox church
does not really answer the question, "How do I Become a Christian?"
They assume that your infant baptism and your allowance to the Holy
Communion makes you a member of that church. It is hardly ever a question
of personal choice, but more the consequences of cultural and national
circumstances. This is very different from the concept taught in the
Bible. In contrast, the church of Christ knows that the believer must take
seriously the thought of John 3:16, "...that whoever believes in Him
should not perish but have eternal life." this thought continues to the
next logical step to some of the last words of Jesus on earth, "...
whoever believes and is baptized will be saved." (Mark 16:16).
The reason for this process from
belief to baptism is that the individual is called to make a personal
choice for their own life. When some believers asked Peter, "...what
should we do?" he told them to, "Repent and be baptized",
every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:37-38).
There is absolutely no mention in the Holy Scriptures about
baptism/confirmation of babies as a means of salvation for them.
Q. In view of what you have
learned, what then should a believing Orthodox member do?
A. He should first be thankful for
every spiritual influence which has brought him to this level of his
faith. Truth remains truth wherever it is found. However, truth has become
useless if the believer does not act upon what God has revealed to him
through the Bible.
Repentance is a decision to turn
from old ways which do not have God's approval, and to turn to those
things which please the Father. For some Orthodox members who are deeply
rooted in their families' and national culture, this decision may be very
difficult because of the pressure of family and friends. God's promises to
those who are obedient to Him, makes the effort worthwhile.
With the decision to turn from
"tradition" to the "truth" of the word, the command is to be baptized for
the forgiveness of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. When
one does this, believing the promise of God that He will adopt him as His
child, the Christian has the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit to
overcome all pressures.
Once a baptized person has obeyed
the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, he will seek out a body of
believers who are organized and who worship according to the New
Testament. If the group is faithful to the divine pattern given in the New
Testament, it will be the church of Christ. If no such group is found, the
Christian will know that they have the duty to begin the church of Christ
in their own home, as long as they continue to follow only those things
taught in the Bible.
THE MUSLIM FAITH Vs
To Our Muslim Friends
Which God do you Serve
Who Is This Jesus?
Points to Consider
Mohammed was born in 570AD and
Islam came about 630 A.D.
Mohammed is dead.
Jesus came in 4AD, "But, when the
time had fully come, God sent his Son..." -- Galatians 4:4
Jesus is alive today.
Muslims claim that the New
Testament is false and the Bible is full of errors.
But, the Koran refers to the Bible
for their basic ideas.
The Koran has changed the promised son of Abraham
from Isaac, the promised son, to Ishmael,
the one referred to as the "wild donkey man." -- Genesis 16:11
The Koran leaves out the 10th plague invoked by Moses
that finally caused Pharoah to let the Hebrew slaves go. The 10 plague
refers to "The Lamb of God," Jesus.
The Koran claims that if one doesn't understand the
Bible, they should consult the "People of the Book" referring to Jews
and Christians. This is the basic reason that the Black Muslim leader
converted to Christianity.
The Bible claims to be God's word
and commands men not to murder. -- Exodus 20
Jesus teaches men to love their
enemies and pray for them. God is love and forgiving.
Jesus said, "I am the way -- and
the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
-- John 14:6
to you with the conviction that you, like us, want peace and a home where
you can live without fear of another religious group trying to impose its
beliefs upon us. We condemn the actions taken by the Crusaders many
centuries ago who, while claiming to be Christians, promoted the killing of
Muslims and Jews because they held different beliefs. We likewise condemn
the actions of Muslims of centuries ago who conquered other lands populated
by Christians and then demanded those men become Muslim or die. Others were
forced to pay high taxes or become Muslims.
Unfortunately, these acts of ruthless killing in the name of religion
have not ceased. We condemn the men in Serbia who, while claiming to be
Christians, sought to destroy Muslims in Kosova. We also condemn the men
from the Middle East who, claiming to be Muslims, seek to kill Christians in
New York and to enslave Christians in Sudan. We recognize that many evil
people use religion for an excuse to destroy others for their personal gain.
This is not unique to Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Paganism or
We come to you hoping that you will join us in accepting the right of
all men to hold to their religious belief without fear of persecution or
ridicule. We come recognizing that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all
accept one God and hold to many of the same Holy Books. Judaism holds to
that part of the Bible known as the Old Testament that includes the Torah,
the Psalms, the Prophets, and the historical books.
Christians accept these same books with the addition of the New
Testament, that is the Gospel portion of the Bible. Most of Islam accepts
these same books, both Old Testament and New Testament, and then adds the
Qur’an, the Hadith, and the Sunah. Let us unite in allowing men the right to
their beliefs, to accept those books they believe are from God.
Many Christians and Muslims are unaware that
Muslims are to accept the Bible as scripture from God. Some Muslims are
aware but then argue that the Bible has been corrupted. Please consider
the following five points.
1. Islamic believers in the Qur’an are also to follow the Torah,
the Psalms, and the Gospel as these were also given by God
through his early prophets. This is taught in Surahs 3:93-94,119, 199,
4:136,150-152, 5:43-44,46-47,65-69,10:37,94-95, 16:40, 21:7 & 29:46.
Surah 4:136 says, “Believers, have faith in God and his apostle, in the
Book He has revealed to his apostle, and in the Scriptures He formerly
revealed. He that denies God, His angels, His scriptures, His
apostles, and the Last Day has strayed far.”
continues in 4:150 to say, “Those that deny God and His Apostles and those
that draw a line between God and His apostles, saying: ‘We believe in
some, but deny others,’ – thus seeking a middle way – these indeed
are the unbelievers. For the unbelievers, We have prepared a shameful
of the older manuscripts are IDENTICAL to our current Hebrew text. These
documents prove scientifically that the Bible we currently posses is a
faithful reproduction of the Bible that existed over years before
Mohammad. If our current manuscript is the same as it was over 2100 years
ago, then surely it is the same as it was 1400 years ago when Mohammad was
told to ask the people of the Book about the word of God. These claims that
the Bible is corrupted will not stand up to an honest evaluation.
To our Muslims friends, we encourage you to read the Bible. Do not be
guilty of saying “We believe in some, but deny others, – thus seeking
a middle way – these indeed are the unbelievers.” As students of the Bible
we want to offer you our help in studying the Bible.
Given these two passages from the Qur’an Islamic believers must also
accept the Bible as scriptures from God. When one considers the large number
of verses in the Qur’an that teach that the Bible is a part of the Islamic
scriptures, one must conclude that Muslims must accept the Bible as
scriptures. While not identifying all portions of the Bible as scriptures,
the Qur’an does identify in addition to the Torah, Psalms and Gospel, other
prophets such as Isaiah, Jonah, etc. These references indicate acceptance of
the writings of the Prophets recorded in the Old Testament. It should be
added that nowhere does the Qur’an suggest that any portion of the Bible
scriptures were corrupted or not to be accepted as from God.
3. The Qur’an also
teaches that the scriptures cannot be falsified, only distorted by men.
Surah 6:34 says, “Other apostles have been denied before you. But they
patiently bore with disbelief and persecution until our help came down to
them: for none can change the decrees of God”. Surah 10:64 says, “Surely the
servants of God have nothing to fear … the words of God shall never change.”
Surah 75:17 says, “ … We ourselves shall see to its collection and recital”.
The last quotation applies specifically to the Qur’an while the first
passage pertains specifically to the earlier scriptures. It is clear that
this teaching that the scriptures can’t be falsified must apply to all
scriptures. Any corruption of the Bible would invalidate these passages
just as it would any corruption of the Qur’an.
4. The teaching of the Qur’an are clearly supportive of the Bible
being an accurate portrayal of God’s will. In fact, on three occasions
Muhammad was told to ask the people of the book if he doubted the teaching
that he received from the angel Gabriel. Surah 10:94 says “If you
(Muhammad) doubt what we have revealed to you, ask those who have read
the Scriptures before you.” If Muhammad himself was to ask the
people of the Book about their scriptures (the ones written before him) then
clearly the current scriptures (the Bible) were holy writings from God and
were uncorrupted at that time.
5. We wish to bring to the attention of our Muslim friends that the
Bible that the Christians accept is based upon much examination of ancient
manuscripts to make sure that the scriptures are accurate words of the
prophets of God. The Bible is based upon a large number of ancient
manuscripts of which many predate the time of Mohammad by hundreds of years.
One of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century was the finding
of the Dead Sea Scrolls found in Palestine in about 1950. These scrolls have
confirmed that the present Hebrew text is a very accurate copy of the text
found in the multiple manuscripts found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. For
example, there were 24 different manuscripts containing parts of the book of
Genesis found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Of those 24 manuscripts, only 11
show any variance at all except for some minor spelling variances.
Several of the older manuscripts are IDENTICAL to our current Hebrew
text. These documents prove scientifically that the Bible we
currently posses is a faithful reproduction of the Bible that existed over
years before Mohammad.
If our current manuscript is the same as it was over 2100 years ago then
surely it is the same as it was 1400 years ago when Mohammad was told to ask
the people of the Book about the word of God. The claims that the
Bible is corrupted will not stand up to an honest evaluation.
To our Muslims friends, we encourage you to read the
Bible. Do not be guilty of saying “We believe in some, but deny
others, – thus seeking a middle way – these indeed are the unbelievers.”
As students of the Bible we want to offer you our help in studying the
Author: Gene Banister
Permission is granted to reproduce this document and
distribute it unedited freely.
God do you serve?
Both Islam and Christianity believe in
One God. But do they believe in the same God? Let’s look at the God
worshipped by Islam and the God worshipped by Christians.
God is presented as One God (fundamental
tenet of Islam and first pillar). The phrases All knowing, All mighty, All
wise, All hearing, All seeing and All aware are found repeatedly in the
Qur’an. These terms have been listed in the order of their frequency of use
in the Qur’an. In addition God is referred to over 100 times as Most
Merciful (not counting the use of this phrase found in the preface to each
Surah). At the same time there are over 100 references to “merciful”
there are over 200 references to Hell in terms of a excruciating pain or
torture, the opposite of mercy.
- Impersonal and Unknowable God
While not explicitly stated in the Qur’an,
another important and significant teaching of Islam is that it is not
possible to have any personal relationship with God.
Many Muslim scholars acknowledge that Allah is unknowable and
unapproachable by man. AlGhazali, the most prominent theologian in the
history of Islam, said: "The end result of the knowledge of the `arifin is
their inability to know Him, and their knowledge is, in truth, that they do
not know Him and that it is absolutely impossible for them to know Him."
Fadlou Shehadi, a contemporary scholar of Al-Ghazali, after analyzing Al-Ghazali's
arguments about the transcendence of God, concludes, “From all the
foregoing, one important consequence has to be drawn. God is Utterly
Only twice in the Qur’an is God referred to as Holy. In contrast
there are several references to Holy Books, Holy land and Holy Jihad.
(Actually many of these references are in the comments of the translators.
The statements in this section are based
upon a computer word search of “The Noble Quran” by Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din
Al-Hilali, Ph.D. and Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan.)
- A God who loves only good people
God loves only the good people, not the sinner or transgressor,
2:190,276, 3:31-32,57,140, 4:36, 30:44. Nowhere in the Qur’an is God ever
reported to love someone who does not love Him first, nor is God's love
ever used as the central motivating factor for someone to draw close to Him.
God is presented as One God (Genesis 20:1-3, Isaiah 45:18,21,
46:9, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Ephesians 4:4-6) in agreement with Islam. But the
Christian concept of God does not limit Him to one form. God is a Spirit,
capable of appearing in physical flesh but not restricted to flesh. (John
4:24) Jesus appeared as God in the flesh (John 1:1, 14, 14:6-11). He sent
his Son, a part of Himself, so that we can know Him (John 14:5-10, 1 John
4:7-10). The three forms or three parts of One God will be discussed more in
The term most often used in referring to God is Holy. See Isaiah
6:3. This describes a God who is without sin, fault or blemish of any type.
It is the great Holiness of God that makes it impossible for men
(sinners) to be in his presence unless they are perfect. The term Holy
appears in the Bible over 500 times with this term generally being
restricted to use with respect to God or some object associated with God.
For example, holy temple, holy ground, holy worship, etc.
God is presented as powerful (the creator – Genesis 1 & 2 and
elsewhere), but more importantly as a loving God (John 3:16, 1 John 4:19).
He is a God concerned with each person (Prodigal son – Luke
The distinction between Islam and Christianity is that the Christian
God is not a distance God unconcerned with each individual but rather a God
who knows the number of hairs on the head of each person and has an
incomprehensible love for each person (Luke 12:7).
God is repeatedly called a God of love, 2 Corinthians 13:11, 1 John
4:7-8. The Greek term for love, ‘Agape’, does not describe an emotional love
but actions. It is in this sense that God so loved the world (mankind) that
he gave His Son as a sacrifice (an action for the good of men) that all men
might be saved, John 3:16, 15:13.
Men are called to
respond in the same way towards other men and towards God Himself, 1 John
3:16. Our response is attributed to His love for us while we were
sinners deserving of death, Romans 5:8. We are to love our enemies; that is
to do good towards them rather than harm, Matthew 5:43-44. Unlike Islam, God
is presented as loving ALL men, not just those who are good.
Finally, we see God referred to as Father many times. Jesus taught us
to pray to the Father, Matthew 6:9-13. This is the opposite of a distant
unconcerned God. Jesus told the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32
to illustrate the concern of God (our Father) over the lost son. In Genesis
6:6 we are told of God’s grief that men were evil. This concept of God as
a loving Father seeking his children is not found in the Qur’an and is
only alluded to in prophetic passages in the Old Testament. It is with the
coming of Jesus that the concept of God as Father is fully made known.
In John 14:1-9 Jesus stresses that if we know Him (Jesus) we know the
Father. We see in Jesus, the Son of God, all the characteristics of God the
Father, Colossians 2:9. John 1:18 says, “No man has ever seen God, the only
begotten Son of God, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.” Jesus
came to earth as a man in order that we could know God. He is not unknowable
but desires that we know Him.
Do Islam and Christianity worship the same God? The answer
must be emphatically NO!
Which God do you worship? Does your God love you and want you to go to
heaven? Or has your God created men to fill hell?
If you wish to know more about the God who loves
you, we urge you to visit the church of Christ to learn more about this God.
This letter is from your friends at the church of Christ.
Author: Gene Banister
Permission is granted to reproduce this
document and distribute it unedited freely.
Muslims say that he was a prophet of God. Jews say he was an imposter who
claimed to be the Messiah, the One sent by God, but was not. Others claim he
was an angelic being, neither a man nor a part of God. Still others say no,
he was only a good man. Christians say He was the Messiah prophesized of in
the Old Testament. He was also the Lamb of God referred to in several Old
Testament passages and also the Son of God. Let’s look at these conflicting
- The Seed of Woman, The Messiah
The first prophesy found in the Bible, Genesis 3:15, says a man, who
will be born of a woman will be bruised (hurt) by Satan but the man will
conquer Satan. It is curious that this man is referred to as the seed of
woman, not man. This implies the man has no earthly father. This statement
was made thousands of years prior to the coming of this man, Jesus. In
BC the prophet Isaiah prophesies that a virgin shall bear a son and he shall
be called Emanuel, which means “God with us”, Isaiah 7:14. We then come
to the fulfillment of both these prophesies in Matthew 1:18-25 where the
virgin Mary becomes pregnant by the Holy Spirit of God. An Angel of God
directed that the boy was to be named Jesus for he would save his people
from sin. It is this Jesus, the seed of a woman but not the seed of a
man, who would die on the cross but be raised again (hurt by Satan but not
destroyed), Acts 2:22-23. It is this Jesus who would die as a sin offering
for all men so that they would be free from sin destroying the power of
Satan, Acts 2:36-39. It is this Jesus who an Angel called the Christ (Greek
name for Messiah) and said that he was to be the Savior of the world, Luke
We are first told of the lamb of God by Abraham. In Genesis 21, about
4200 years ago, God tested Abraham to see if he is willing to sacrifice his
son, his only son, to God. It was while climbing the mountain of Moriah near
Jerusalem that Isaiah, his son, asked his father Abraham “Where is the lamb
for the sacrifice?” Abraham’s response was that God will provide for himself
When God knew that Abraham would indeed offer his son, God
stopped Abraham form sacrificing his son and provided a Ram for the
Then, next we read of the sacrifice of a lamb is in Exodus where God orders
Moses to have each Israelite family offer a lamb as a sacrifice in what
became know as the Passover feast.
|The blood of the
lamb sprinkled on the doorpost of the houses of the Israelites protected
them from the death of the firstborn in every house in Egypt. See Exodus
12.This was about 3500 years ago.
We then read in Isaiah 53:4-9 a prophesy of the coming Messiah being
described as like a lamb being led to the slaughter that makes no cry. It is
this lamb or Messiah that is to be killed as a sacrifice for our sins. We
then turn to John 1:29 where John the Baptist seeing Jesus coming to him
cries out “Behold the Lamb of God”. It is this Lamb of God that is taken
by the Jews to Pilate to be crucified. Like a lamb Jesus offers no cry
of defense, John 19:9-10. The Lamb of God was then led to the cross where he
was crucified for our sins.
This Lamb of God is next seen in the Revelation of John, Revelation
5:6-14, where the angels and all creatures in heaven bow down and worship
the One on the throne (the Father) and the Lamb that was slain. Just as we
see the Seed of woman and the Messiah described throughout the Bible and
identified as Jesus, so also we see the Lamb of God described throughout the
Bible as the sacrificial lamb that sets men free from sin. This lamb is
identified as Jesus.
It is interesting to notice other comparisons between Jesus and
Isaac, the son of Abraham. It is true that Abraham had another son Ishmael,
the son of a slave woman. But Abraham had sent Ishmael away many years prior
to this sacrifice of Isaac. To Abraham, Isaac was his only son as stated in
Genesis 22:2. In Matthew 3:17 God identifies Jesus as His beloved Son. In
John 3:16 Jesus refers to himself as the only Son of God. In Genesis 22:6 it
is Isaac that carries the wood up the mountain. In John 19:17 it is Jesus
that carries his wooden cross up the hill. In Genesis 22:2 Abraham is
told to journey to the land of Moriah for the offering. Jerusalem, where
Jesus was sacrificed, is located on Mount Moriah. See 2 Chronicles 3:1.
Jesus also journeyed to Jerusalem from Galilee for the sacrifice. It appears
that God had Abraham present his offering of his only son on the same
mountain where God was later to offer His only son as the sacrificial
Lamb of God.
Are all these events coincidental? Certainly not! It was the plan of
God to redeem man from sin from the beginning. God is a Holy God and only a
holy sacrifice can satisfy the justice of God. Jesus, as the Son of God, is
Holy. His sacrifice was not only a Holy sacrifice but was a loving offering
from God to man to show us how much He loves us. No animal sacrifice would
suffice to cleanse us from all our sins. No animal sacrifice would prove to
us that God loves us. Neither would the sacrifice of some heavenly being
prove that God actually loves men. Just as Abraham’s sacrifice of his only
son proved to God that Abraham truly trusted him, so God’s sacrifice of
His only son proves His love for us.
Was Jesus only a prophet? If so then the claim of John 3:16 that
God’s gift of His Son as proof of His love for us is not true. Furthermore,
the whole story of Abraham offering his son no longer has any meaning.
Was Jesus an imposter claiming to be the Messiah? If so, then His
willingness to be crucified is the act of a lunatic. He certainly was not a
good man or a prophet if he was an imposter. His disciples were foolish men
who gave up their lives to carry His message throughout the world for a man
who died on the cross.
No! They were witnesses to His resurrection. He was no imposter. They
chose to serve a risen Savior as should we.
What about you? How will you answer the question “Who was this man Jesus?”
Would you like to know more about this man?
The Church of Christ invites you to come join us in
study of this Messiah, Lamb of God, and the Son of God.
If you wish to know more about the God who loves
you, we urge you to visit the church of Christ to learn more about this God.
This letter is from your friends at the church of Christ.
Author: Gene Banister
Permission is granted to reproduce this
document and distribute it unedited freely.
Buddhism and WEI in SE Asia
By Bill McDonough
has spent several years
working in SE Asia and offers these insights.
First, about Buddhism
1. Buddhism here
*Buddhism that is studied from a world religions
or historical perspective is not the same as what is actually practiced
in Buddhist countries. In fact, the now popular form of Buddhism
practiced by many Americans is actually closer to true Buddhism than
what is found in so-called Buddhist countries.
*Buddha (whose name is Guatama) never intended for
any one to worship HIM! His plan was the middle way, a life style in
between the two extremes of asceticism and indulgence. It could be
compared to the lifestyle of Jesus-provided for, yet simple and poor.
For Buddha, the point of life was for a person to escape the cycle of
suffering. Love can bring suffering (when the person dies or leaves);
death and illness bring suffering; relationships in general can bring
suffering. It is each person’s responsibility to release him or herself
from this cycle.
So, essentially, each
person is to “work out his own salvation” in Buddhism. Buddha offers an
8 fold Path, as well as other teachings in the Dharma. This is what you
hear being chanted in the morning. These teachings give people direction
on right living and right thinking to help his followers release
themselves from the cycle of suffering. The goal of any Buddhist is to
reach enlightenment. Enlightenment can be described as a cosmic,
spiritual “Ah-Ha.” It is when, through meditation-a state of
clearing one’s mind completely- a person attains complete understanding
of the universe. Buddha attained this state of enlightenment under a
Bodi tree. (These trees are all over SE Asia. Many times they have urns
in them that hold the ashes of ancestors. They are considered holy
trees. This is good example of how Buddhism and animism have merged in
SE Asia). Satan, they believe, came to tempt Buddha at this moment with
women and weather, but a big snake, named Naga, protected Buddha.
(Statues of this snake are all over Cambodia). Therefore, while
meditating, Buddha reached enlightenment, and thus released himself from
the cycle of reincarnation.
In Buddhism, this cycle continues through death.
After death, the “soul” returns to earth in the form of another being
UNLESS the soul reached enlightenment while it was living. The next life
form is determined by the life currently being lived. It is possible for
one to live well enough to be reincarnated into a heavenly being. It is
possible for one to live poorly enough to be reincarnated into an
animal. (Buddha said, ”the chances of being reincarnated as a human
are 500 million times the age of the universe.”) But only attaining
enlightenment in life can release a person from the cycle all-together,
and send the soul to nirvana. Buddha then told others about his
enlightenment, and told them how to reach it for themselves.
3. What modern Buddhists practice
*People like to have
something beyond themselves to worship. Therefore, people began to
worship the Buddha. Statues were made to “remember” him, and to “remind
people of his example.” After hundreds of years, though, people are now
bowing down to Buddha and asking him for favors and wisdom. Buddha
himself has become a god. Many monks, in countries where a truer
Buddhism is practiced, like Burma, will deny that they do this, but will
readily admit that this is the religion of the people and it is errant
to true Buddhism. The people have pagodas that house relics of the
Buddha (like many Catholic churches). (I’ve been to so many pagodas that
housed a tooth of the Buddha I’m convinced that the man had a jaw like a
crocodile). In these pagodas are stupas (mini-temples) where the people
worship bodhisattvas. A bodhisattva is a man who could have reached
enlightenment, but decided not to in order to teach the people the true
way. He sacrificed meditation time for teaching time. The people believe
that these bodhisattvas can hear their prayers and help them. (Like
Saints). In Burma there is a stupa where people go to pray for a baby,
one where they go to pray for their new house, etc….
Modern Buddhism has split into two major groups.
Theravada and Mahayana. I call them, “the fat Buddha and the skinny
Buddha.” Of course, there are many more differences between the two than
this. Cambodia, with the rest of SE Asia, follows Theravada Buddhism
(skinny Buddha). It is considered more traditional and strict than
Mahayana. In this form of Buddhism, a woman cannot reach enlightenment.
She must be born as a man first, as he is the higher life form. After
being born as a man, she can become a monk, reach enlightenment, and
Theravada Buddhism has come to believe in “instant
Karma.” No longer do they believe that the consequences of this life
will be felt entirely in the next life. The consequences of actions in
this life can be felt immediately. It is as practical to them as, “I got
drunk last night. Therefore, my moto got a flat tire today.” Many people
say that Buddhists are selfish. This is because when Buddhists see a
poor person, they think, “He must have done something to deserve that.”
Or if someone is sick, or dies unexpectedly, they think, “That is karma.
He did bad, so bad will come to him”. There is little sympathy. However,
Buddhists will usually help the poor and sick in order to build up good
karma for themselves. If they don’t, the same bad things may happen to
Modern Buddhism in SE
Asia is entirely work oriented. A person is saved by his works,
“merits.” There is no concept of grace.
Superstition and ancestor worship has infiltrated
Buddhism in these countries as well. (Refer back to the Bodi tree). Most
homes have an ancestor shrine where fruit or rice is offered daily.
There are animistic spirits in all things of nature. There are bad
spirits all around. For example, if three people get their picture taken
together, the person in the middle will die. Or if you photograph a
newborn, the bad spirits may see what a beautiful baby it is and come to
steal the baby away (kill it). The Khmer word for moon and sun is
preceded by the Khmer word, “god.” This presents a challenge when
teaching the creation story. We can either say in Khmer, “God made the
sun god,” or “God made the big light that lights up the day.” Because of
superstition, most Buddhists live in a constant state of fear.
Cambodia is unique. It
is a country where religion was forbidden for some time under the Khmer
Rouge. Monks were killed and the temples were destroyed. Now this
country allows freedom of religion. This is a country where there is a
whole generation who are essentially of no religion, other than what has
been passed down to them in the form of tradition and superstition. They
are clean slates, and sometimes they are looking for something to
believe in. Others, though, see Buddhism as the lost religion of the
people and are striving to restore the country back to it. We have an
opportunity here in Cambodia that is not available in most other places.
What this Buddhism information has to do with teaching our students:
We are offering a
Living God. They
worship a dead one-Buddha and their ancestors. This realization can make
a complacent student more interested.
We offer salvation to men and women in
one lifetime-for free.
We are offering a salvation that is not based
upon works. Christianity is much simpler than Buddhism.
We are offering them a way out of fear. God
gives us victory over Satan and his demons. One student asked me what
the opposite was of the word, superstition. I told her,
We are offering grace.
We are offering hope in eternity to be reached
at the end of this one life-a permanent end to suffering within the
next 50 yrs. (or however long they live).
The word, “god.” If you ask them, “Do you
believe in God?” They will readily say, “Yes!” We must specify, “Do
you believe in the Living God of this book - the one Abraham is
worshipping?” Then, most will change their answer and say, “No.” I’ve
heard many teachers get excited over so-called “expressions of faith”
by Buddhist students, when really the student was simply saying, “I
believe in Buddha.” We should distinguish which god we are talking
about from lesson one, and continue to make that distinction
throughout the studies. Many students do not know we are talking about
a different God than theirs. Now, my students often ask me, “Which god
are you asking me about?” And I tell them, “the Living God.”
The names of God and Jesus. The students come
from a polytheistic culture (many gods). When they read the words,
God, Father, the Almighty, the Creator, Christ, Jesus, Lord, the
Savior, Messiah….they think they are reading about many different
gods. It may help them to make a list of all the different names of
God and Jesus used in the lessons and explain to them that all of
these names represent the same person.
The word, “heaven.” Some concepts about heaven
and nirvana are the same, yet they are fundamentally different. When
Buddhists learn the word, nirvana in English, they learn the
English word, heaven. However, as we know, these words are not
synonyms. God is in our heaven, not in theirs.
The word, “worship.”
I never use the Khmer/English dictionary to define spiritual words
like this. They are probably translated into something related to
Buddhism-something they will understand. They can understand worship
as bringing fruit to the pagoda, honoring ancestors, and burning
incense. We need to give them the definition of worship as it relates
to the Bible. Dick Ady gives a definition of worship on page 21 of the
WEI book. This definition is very difficult for students with limited
English, though. I usually say something like, “Worship is living a
life that says, ‘Thank you’ to God.” And then I give examples, like
singing, praying, loving others….
Phil. 2:12 “Work out
your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This would not be the
verse to quote at the beginning of a study with a Buddhist! Without
context and explanation, it would be very confusing, as this is the
mantra of sorts for modern Buddhism.
*Try to put yourself in their
religious perspective while teaching each lesson. Pretend all you know
is a life of superstition and works. You have never heard of one Living
God before. You have never heard of Jesus before. You have never heard
of grace. You have no idea what a church is, or what happens there. You
have never heard of a God that sees your heart and weighs your motives.
You don’t know about judgment, or that God wrote a book for you, and can
save you. With this in mind, speak to the students simply. Don’t assume
they know anything, and clarify everything spiritual.
Imagine they are teaching you about Buddhism in Khmer. Remember the
sun god problem.
- He was born of a man and a woman
- He lived between 550 and 480 BC
- He was born and lived in India.
- He was called "The Enlightened One."
- He learned wisdom, and studies the way to Enlightenment.
- He taught a new way and discarded the old way.
- He died at approximately age 80 from food poisoning.
- He did not live again after his death.
- He left his wife and son to learn about spiritual things.
- He looked inward for salvation.
- He searched for answers to the world's problems.
- He separated himself from love and close relationships.
- He actively tried to avoid suffering.
- He did not have a relationship with the Living God.
- He pointed the way to Enlightenment.
- He claimed to be a reincarnated man.
- He is a creation.
- He was not a perfect man.
- He did not perform miracles.
- He has roughly 327 million followers today.
- He left his followers to find their own way after his death.
- He established the earthly Sangha, the brotherhood of monks.
- He was born of the Holy Spirit and a woman.
- He is eternal, but he lived on earth between 4 BC - 30 AD (The
world's time is measured by his life.)
- He was born and lived in Judea.
- He was called the "Anointed One."
- He knew everything from the beginning of time.
- He explained the full meaning of the old way and made the old way
perfect fulfilling it.
- He was killed at age 33 by crucifixion to fulfill a divine plan.
- He lives eternally in heaven.
- He cared for his mother, had a relationship with his father, and
encouraged his children to come to him.
- He is salvation and looked upward to the Father.
- He knew he is the answer to the world's problems from the beginning.
- He actively loved people and had many personal relationships.
- He accepted suffering.
- He is united with the Living God.
- He said, "I am the way," and "I am the Light of the World."
- He is the eternal savior.
- He is the Creator.
- He was perfect and without sin.
- He performed miracles.
- He has roughly 560 million followers today.
- He remained with his followers in the form of the Holy Spirit to
help them after he went to heaven.
- He established the eternal church.
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