2003 July 01 Tuesday
On Christianity, Islam, Utopianism, And Tyrannies

Samuel P. Schlorff, apparently writing to give advice to Christian missionaries who try to convert Muslims, has written an interesting essay comparing Christianity and Islam entitled Muslim Ideology and Christian Apologetics.

2. Human Goodness

Closely related to this is a second assumption concerning human nature. Islam holds that people are essentially "good" and "pure" (cf. Sura 95:4), although "weak" and "forgetful" (Sura 4:28; 20:115). In the qur'anic account of Adam and Eve, they did not intend to disobey; they simply "forgot" God's command. And after Adam sinned, God "relented" and "forgave" him, promised him "guidance," and assured him he had "nothing to fear" provided he followed that guidance (Sura 20:115-127).

Islam categorically rejects the biblical doctrine of a moral fall. Muslims insist that our present separation from God is due essentially to God's transcendence, not sinful human nature. Although we do sin, this is attributed, e.g., to "ethical misperception" rather than to sinfulness (al-Faruqi 1968:64). We have the moral power not to sin; we can do the good. Indeed, Islam teaches, on the strength of a rather obscure passage in the Qur'an (Sura 30:30), that man is born "Muslim," i.e., submissive to God by nature (Kateregga and Shenk 1980:18; al-Faruqi 1976:395ff.). What we need then is not salvation from sin, but "guidance." With guidance from God we are able to live a life of submission that pleases God (al-Faruqi 1976:398-401).

For the Muslim, then, our present situation is the normal human condition. According to the Bible, it is abnormal. God did not create us as we now are, nor does he intend that we stay that way. In Christ, we have the hope of one day being "liberated" from the creation's present "bondage to decay" and experiencing the "redemption of our bodies" (Romans 8:21-23). Islamic eschatology does not offer such a hope.

This difference in the Muslim view of human nature goes a long way, in my view, in explaining why a core belief of Islam is that a highly religious state ruled by humans is possible in this life.

Here is where Islam becomes highly ideological. That first community at Medina is considered to be the model "community of submission" of all time - the exemplar which Muslims must thereafter strive to emulate. It is said to be superior to other types of social organization (e.g., capitalism, communism, or socialism) because it is based on divine law, not man-made law (see, e.g., Esposito 1983:67-98). This is thought to make for a greater degree of submission than exists outside Islam. The model requires a Muslim government to provide the legal and social framework necessary to facilitate submission to the law. There is no separation between the sacred and the secular, between church and state. This community is one, universal, and cohesive, representing for Muslims the kingdom of God on earth.

Contrast the Muslim view of human nature with the Christian view. Because Christians view humans as fallen, sinful, and imperfect this leads to an expectation that humans can not create governments that will govern according to God's wishes.

Only a Society Ruled by God Can Be Considered a Divine Order

The biblical concept is based on the premise that only a society in which the executive, legislative, and judicial functions of government are all under the direct control of God may be considered a divine order. Anything less, e.g., where any of these functions are in human hands, is ipso facto not a divine order, even though it may possess a religious law.

Christians have a more pessimistic view of human nature. Biblical prophecies are consistent with this pessimistic view. Humans are not expected to achieve perfect justice or utopia on this Earth by themselves. In Christian teachings it literally requires God to return in order to be able to create an ideal society. Jewish beliefs about a returning Messiah are similar to Christian teachings in this respect.

A belief in the possibility of creating a "this world" utopia can serve as a powerful motivator of human behavior. The biggest danger that utopians (religious or secular) present for the rest of the human race is that they often believe that they are pursuing the realization of such an enormously desirable goal that their desired ends tend, in their own minds, to justify means that leave the rest of us either dead, dying, or living under an oppressive tyranny.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 July 01 09:03 PM  Religion Secular Ideologies


Comments
Check it Out said at October 26, 2011 1:56 PM:

Oh but idiots continue to think that Ethics and Values depend on religion.
Idiots think that a person without religion is "evil"
Idiots continue to believe in killing in God's name and shoving their beliefs down people's throats.


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