Never have I seen so much confusion in the world. Here are some examples: Our western political leaders continue to claim that Islam is a peaceful and loving religion. So, why are so many bombs going off and so many people being killed? Some would say that Islam has been hijacked by radicals who do not represent its real teachings. Really? Is this true in the well documented light of Islamic origins and Mohammed’s own example? Western nations continue to allow Muslim immigrant populations to expand, populations that do not assimilate into the larger society, but foster fundamentalist Islam. The nations are blind to the danger.
Christopher Hutchins and Richard Dawkins write books indiscriminately attacking religion as bad for society. Never do they admit that committed Christians built hospitals, gave us modern medicine and fought the battles that eliminated slavery and child labor. The film Amazing Grace, about the life of William Wilberforce, tells the story of one such example. Without Christianity the world would be much more barbaric. Yes, there have been failings in institutional Christianity and there has been significant Anti-Semitism in the history of the Church. Despite that, to think that a world without Christianity would be a kinder and gentler is mindless nonsense!
Our Western relativism teaches us that nothing is either right or wrong, or ultimately true or false; there are no moral absolutes.Therefore, all religions are equal. What rubbish! Last month, those who watch cable news programs were shocked to hear that teenage girls, some as young as 12 and 13, have been using their cell-phones to take and send pornographic photos of themselves in order to attract boys. Yet our society, in its relativism, enforces no standards on pornography. We have a media that constantly extols the sensual and the pornographic image. What are these teenagers to conclude concerning what society values? All of this is the sad result of the decline of biblical ethics in our society.
Recently, a very sad event took place: the signing of a joint statement between Muslim and Christian leaders claiming that the two religions are in fundamental agreement on who God is, claiming they worship the same God and believe in caring for the poor. How inane! Islam teaches caring for the poor Muslim, but not kindness for the poor infidel! The statement fosters a weakening in Western resolve and skirts the real issues. How much better it would have been if both sides had signed on to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This brilliant statement came out of that brief period of moral sanity after the Holocaust. Its stunning moral clarity is a credit to those who composed it and those who embraced it. (You can find it through any Internet search engine.)
One of the key authors of the text was a great Christian statesman by the name of Charles Malik. Malik was a Lebanese Christian who led the American University in Beirut and presided over the U.N. General Assembly. In the late 1960s I was first introduced to Dr. Malik through a marvelous article defending Christian belief in Christianity Today magazine. The United Nations declaration reflects his great mind and heart. It defends human dignity, freedom of religion, and the right to change and propagate one’s religion. If the Christian and Muslim leaders had signed on to this statement then we would have had some substance and progress. Instead, what they signed was nothing more than a ruse because the Muslims will interpret it differently in their own context. We in Israel who constantly face Islamic terror know this story well.
A Simple Answer To Confusion
In reflecting on these matters, I wondered if there was some answer, a simple idea that could cut through the confusion. I recalled a discussion I had with an elderly Jewish resident of our Florida neighborhood. He was complaining about the bad things done in the name of religion: the thieves, the televangelists, the pedophiles and many more. I told him that only real religious belief, not just an external show, is a powerful motivation for behavior. The great philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that only belief in God, freedom and life after death, is sufficient to produce a moral society. The idea of reward and punishment after death was, to Kant, necessary to motivate good behavior. Belief in the afterlife is essential for moral stability because not all sins are punished in this life. The final reckoning is determined in the hereafter. Without God and the afterlife we are in severe trouble as well noted by Paul,
“If only in this life we have hope in Messiah, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (I Cor. 15:19)
Belief in God is not enough. We have to know what God wants of us. What behavior does God like? If a person truly believes that God likes blowing up innocent men, women and children in order to spread Islam, and that a great eternal reward awaits those who do so, then the results are all too painfully obvious. Some argue that Islam and Christianity do not worship the same god. Well, both refer to the One who is the Creator of all. I avoid this question and say that if Islam is slandering who God is, then those who teach such slander against God are in deep trouble concerning their eternal destiny. If we truly believe that we are to love our enemies, and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, the results are also predictable and manifest. Indeed, the Sermon on the Mount is the great charter of kind and godly behavior toward others. It is the greatest summary of what God expects of our behavior. The Jewish Scriptures provide us with the knowledge of God and His will!
An Immigration Answer
Such a simple argument slices through the confusion and answers all kinds of puzzles. It solves the problem of immigration in Western nations. The state cannot require particular doctrines for its citizens, such as believing in the atonement and resurrection of Yeshua, but it can require an ethical position. All religions are not legal and should not be. For example, some religions practice child sacrifice, and this cannot be tolerated. In the same way, any people who adhere to a religion that teaches violence and destruction as the way to spread their religion should not be candidates for immigration. I greatly disagree with the Dalai Lama in doctrine, but he would endorse the biblically influenced Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The test issue is what we believe that God or the powers of heaven desire in our behavior. We believe that God approves of sex, but only within covenant marriage. God likes kindness to the poor. God likes enforcing moral standards in the Body of Believers.
The question for the many religions that believe in life after death is, “What behavior do you believe will be rewarded?” Religions that are good for society are those that seek to practice the ethic revealed in the Torah of Israel and taught by Yeshua. This ethic is reflected in the U.N. Declaration. If a religion teaches that God approves what is truly evil, we must fight that religion with all our hearts while loving the people who are in bondage to that religion. The non-religious should have to sign on to the same ethic to immigrate. Isn’t it amazing that the U.N. soon stopped enforcing the U.N. Declaration for those nations who joined it? What a difference could have been made if enforcement had continued!
Sadly, Christians today are not in agreement as to what God likes. Discipling community? Independence? Submission to an eldership? Opulent living through faith confessions? Real biblical prosperity? Acacophony of teachers has confused believers as to what God likes. May God restore us to the original Jewish contextual meaning of the New Testament so we can line up with what God truly likes! Our future depends on it.