The Muslim-Christian Chasm

Vantage Point
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Several issues ago Banner Editor Bob De Moor wrote about his church’s positive encounter with two devout Muslims (“In All Honesty,” November 2010). That experience stands in sharp contrast to how others who practice Islam have treated Christians and their worship spaces—for a recent example, note the violence in Nigeria.

Let’s not gloss over our serious historical, scriptural, theological, and philosophical differences.

Historically, little has been mentioned about the hundreds of thousands of Christians who were massacred, forced to convert to Islam, placed in an economically and culturally enslaved condition, or had their church buildings destroyed or taken over. Most of the Crusades were efforts to throw back the Islamic empire and secure the church in the Middle East.

Scripturally, we hold that all truth is God’s truth. John 14:6 tells us that Jesus is the truth. And Jesus challenges us to “teach the way of God in accordance with the truth” (Matt. 22:16). Do we?

Scripture also teaches that there will be those who, “by their wickedness will suppress the truth” (Rom. 1:18). Does Islam fall under that heading? One of the principle teachings of Islam is to NOT have to tell the truth to nonbelievers! If the truth shall set us free, perhaps it would be wise to consider Islam not as it is taught to groups of Christians by Muslims, but rather how it has been forced on Christians and others of all spiritual backgrounds.

Theologically a wide gulf exists between Reformed Christianity and Islam, a chasm that only Jesus Christ can bridge. No amount of theological gymnastics can diminish the differences between the doctrines of Islam and the Christian doctrines of God’s grace, assurance of salvation, forgiveness, mercy, and love.

Then there are our philosophical differences. Because Sharia is Islam’s rule of law and because Islam was founded as an empire state, there are fundamental differences between what Muslims and Christians believe. The all-encompassing influence of Sharia involves all of culture. Nothing within Islam commends that foundation for our learning and growth as God’s children. We would do well to look to our own Calvinist roots to begin to better understand the world within which we live.

For those who desire a more in-depth discussion of Islam, I recommend Rev. Marvin Heyboer, who offers an excellent two-day seminar on the topic (

About the Author

Rev. Paul Hansen is pastor of First Christian Reformed Church, Artesia, California.

See comments (10)


We also note Mr. Said Musa, 46, sentenced to death in Afghanistan for the crime of converting to Christianity.

I pray God will move to spare his life, but his sentence is 100% in accord with the Qur'an and Islamic law. "Honor" killings have been noted here in the U.S. and Canada in recent years, too.

The sad fact is that increased freedom for Muslims in the Middle East has meant increased persecution for Christians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, and elsewhere.

Until that changes, imams can come to our homes and churches to sing kumbaya all they wish, but their song is just an act.

News reports today indicate Mr. Musa has been released.

As a scholar of Islam and a committed Christian, I am angered by the factual inaccuracies found in this article. First, takiyya, the belief that Muslims might hide their belief is misrepresented here. Takiyya is a belief held by the Shi'a, a minority section of Islam, who faced bitter reprocussions for holding beliefs that differed from the Sunni minority. Shi'a are only allowed to use takiyya to hide there belief only in the face of grave danger of persecution. In doing so, the Shi'a do not hide the fact that they are Muslims, just that they are Shi'a.

Second, regarding the concept of Islamic law, Shari'a. Until recently, the Shari'a was not a systematic legal code like the West thinks of as law. Instead, it was a body of legal rulings that was build over time in a case by case basis. To argue that the Shari'a is bad because it encompasses all of life, one might want to visit the Israelite legal code in the Pentateuch or our own beliefs in sphere sovereignty. Do we not believe that God is in control over all aspects of life?

I am also available to make presentations on Islam and Christianity. Please contact me offline at eggebeen at email dot arizona dot edu.

I don't claim to be a muslim scholar. But I do see what is done in the name of Islam with the approval of its leading clergy. However reminiscent it might be of Christians in the 12th, or even the 18th century, it is deplorable. Christian attitudes towards those of different religions have changed in the intervening years. Muslim attitudes apparently have not.

One can get wrapped around the axel of minutiae and miss the bottom line: It's a whole lot safer to be a Muslim in the West than it is to be a Christian (or Jew) in the Middle East, and a lot of the reason for that lies in the tenets of the religions in question.

All who are not Christians stand in need of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. All who do not know Christ are unsaved. Those who follow Christ and know him as their personal savior are redeemed. That is the chasm. There are many good Muslims - but all Muslims are in need of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Many Muslims are not radical Islamists. The practices of radical Islamists are dangerous and vile. Radical Islamists must be stopped at all times possible. They degrade and murder and maim and seek to impose a world-wide dictatorial theocracy - based on evil. Let's not blame or impugn when this is unjust and not warranted. However, let's not be shy about letting the light shine on evil when it needs to be called evil and when all things possible must be done to ensure its defeat. That's how it one who claims Christ as Savior can ever even begin to come close to being an apologist for the poison and evil known as radical Islam.

Thank you Rev. Paul Hansen for speaking the truth about the serious historical, scriptural, theological, and philosophical differences we as Christians have with Islam. It should concern all Christians that the controversial Imam that wants to build a mosque right next to where Ground Zero is, wants America to be more Shariah-compliant. In radical Islamic countries, 97% of women are genitally mutilated regardless of their level of education, and women are treated with violence and disrespect. The attitudes in these countries are that women are third class citizens.

The radicalization of the American Muslim community and homegrown terrorism is another threat that we all need to watch. There was an important interview of a radical Imam's who warns America: 'Islam Is Coming to Your Backyard'

Read more:

This Imam supports what happened on 9/11, supports jihad, supports Osama bin Laden, and wants Muslim, Sharia rule all over the globe.

Thank you again, Rev. Paul Hansen, for speaking out and educating people on this topic. We are also fighting internal ignorance on the issue, or blind “multiculturalism” and “diversity” that results in apologists for these radicals. That mistake, if left unchecked, will eventually result in more deaths to America and Christians.

I agree with Dan: All who are not Christians stand in need of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. All who do not know Christ are unsaved.

1. historical difference, yes? - sons of ishamael , sons of isaac .... but all sons of abraham ?; ......

2. scriptural differences .... law, prophets, apostles ... God reigns, rule, redeems! ..... our world belongs to God! ......

3. we are "islam" as we continue to submit our lives to the will of God! ....."your will be done .." .... as we heap coals in their heads ..... as we walk another mile for them we bear our crosses ....

4. for the testimony of the one who took our place and become sin for us ....may we be like Stephen ..... like John ... ( He must increase , and we must decrease )

What I find hard to believe from Rev. Hansen's article and from many of the ensuing comments is the lack of compassion and mission toward our neighbors, Muslims in America. To cite historical strife and cruelty between Muslim and Christian populations---especially in such a one-sided manner (you invoke the Crusades in a positive light? seriously? perhaps add the Inquisition as well)---ignores present reality of our communities. Yes, in the Middle East, in Asia, in Africa, where Muslims dominate, Christians and converts have their lives threatened; but to equate Muslim-Christian relations in America or Canada with the status of those overseas is wrong. If you would be a neighbor to Muslims, to have dialogue and treat with respect, as apparently DeMoor's congregation has been doing, you would find that more than a few are in America to escape oppressive political regimes, are friendly, grateful, and gentle of heart and spirit. Do you speak from knowledge, from personal experience? or are you succumbing to the opinions of those who paint with the broad brush of fear, suspicion, and hate? (see Hannity et al.) Put a face on it please, and of your neighbor, not Osama bin Laden, Suleiman the Magnificent, or Saladin.

Rev. Paul Hansen's piece on 'The Muslim-Christian Chasm' (In My Humble Opinion, March 2011) is troubling and misleading in its distortion of history and its reduction of Islam and all Muslims to one homogeneous, malevolent mass. Rev. Hansen criticizes Islam for teaching Muslims to deliberately not tell the truth to unbelievers while he himself fails to tell the complete or accurate truth. For example, he glosses over the complexity of history when he writes that "Most of the Crusades were efforts to throw back the Islamic empire and secure the church in the Middle East." While the Crusades were initially motivated by a pious desire to reclaim Jerusalem, they were largely fought by men seeking personal gain (wealth and land), a convenient way to be absolved of their sins, or an escape from punishment for being on the wrong side of a power struggle in the never-ending cycle of intrigue and murder that constituted politics in medieval Christendom. There was no unified "Islamic empire" against which the Crusaders fought, but rather a multiplicity of competing states and strongmen who were perfectly willing to use or ignore religious similarities and differences to achieve their goals of wealth, land, and power. Just as in medieval Christian Europe.

Rev. Hansen criticizes Islam for "how it has been forced on Christians and others of all spiritual backgrounds" as if no other religion were guilty of this crime. Forced conversion has been practiced by Christians against many peoples, including Vikings, Australian Aborigines, and most relevantly for us in North America, First Nations peoples right through the 20th century. Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor, had thousands of pagan Saxons beheaded in cold blood when they refused to convert to Christianity and submit to the authority granted him by the Pope. Christian mistreatment of non-believers also included Jews, particularly during the Crusades, most of which were accompanied by murderous pogroms throughout Europe.

Instead of recognizing Islam as a religion with as many shades of belief and practice as Christianity, Rev. Hansen writes of Islam and Muslims as if they constitute one unified, unchanging entity that can be summarized, judged, and dismissed in a few sentences. The differences between Calvinists, Baptists, and Catholics are mirrored in the differences between Sunnis, Shias, Sufis, and each of their sub-denominations. The debate over how literally to read, interpret, and implement sacred texts exists in both Islam and Christianity. Not all Muslims wish to enforce Sharia law or every detail of the Qur'an, just as not all Christians wish to enforce the specific judicial, dietary, and personal grooming teachings of The Bible.

Obviously, there are major theological differences between Christianity and Islam, and they both cannot be right. But to distort the historical record and current complexities of either religion is dishonest and unhelpful, and Rev. Hansen is right to note that there are those who "by their wickedness will suppress the truth" (Rom. 1:18). I have many Muslim friends who are loving, tolerant people who do not wish to live under Sharia law or impose it on others, so I feel compelled to point out that not all Muslims are violent fundamentalists. For a more in-depth discussion of Islam, Rev. Hansen recommends people consult Rev. Marvin Heyboer. I humbly suggest people develop friendships and community-building relationships with Muslims.

Matthew de Zoete
Dundas, ON

Bravo, Rev. Hansen.
I just finished the book by Mark Durie called the Third Choice---very scholarly--- about the subjugation of Jews and Christians and Hindus under Muslim rule and their resultant dimmi status of humiliation. Thank you for taking the politically uncorrect route of truth, and not being the dimmi, that some of your more vocal (in writing)responders would have you do.
I fully agree with one of the responders that we need to bow the knee to Jesus and not to the growing chorus of tolerance at all costs---lets sing Kumbaya together---dimmi attitude adopters who exist to defend Islam, while using Christian platitudes.
Keep on keeping on, and as always contend for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints.---albeit without being contentious. That is the challenge.