I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe;
how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?
(Jesus, Gospel according to John 3:12)
Jesus spoke these words to Nicodemus, one of the religious leaders of Israel. Nicodemus came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." But on the other hand he is also a member of the Pharisees, a group who is in opposition to Jesus and publically resists the teaching and message of Jesus. When he now comes to Jesus to inquire more, Jesus answers him with the sentence quoted above.
In other words: If you do not trust/believe me when I speak of the things that can be "tested" and checked out whether they are true based on evidence because they are "earthly" i.e. accessible, how can you even ask for an explanation about the things which are by their very nature not accessible and you cannot confirm them but have to take them by "blind faith"? Jesus says, there is no point in telling you anything about heavenly realities, since you didn't even believe the visible signs and miracles I performed before your very eyes.
Not only the message of Jesus, but every religion consists of teachings and commands which concern our earthly existence, its origin, meaning and how we should conduct our life while living on this earth. Also every religion attempts give some explanation or hope of what will come after we die and what the reality will be in the afterlife.
Now, in a slight reversal of the introductory quote, I think that Jesus acknowledges here the principle that one way to test the truth of any religious claim, is to see if it holds true for the "earthly reality". What does this religion teach about the things we can test by knowledge from research in the scientific disciplines, verification through historical and archeological research, or just logical thinking and testing the whole system for logical consistency.
And it is exactly in these areas that I have a number of questions in regard to Islam.
I have the impression that Islam does not pass this "reality check". How then, can I believe what it says about the nature of the one true God, about life after death, about Judgment Day etc, all those topics I cannot verify by any means and which I can only accept as given to me?
I like the following statement:
And that means for me, that the truth will never have to fear any facts and evidence. And if some facts are clearly contrary to what I believed to be the truth, then I might just be mistaken in my "believed truth" and have to adjust my faith to the evidential truth. That does not mean I have to immediately accept everything that comes in the disguise of "science". I have to question these things just as much as I am called to question and test any religious claims. But in the end, if my "faith" contradicts the facts as they are after all critical evaluation, then maybe something is wrong with my faith and I have to seriously think about adjustments.
In this spirit, I do want to present some questions here which I think are very important. This will be very critical towards Islam by the very nature of anything that deserves the name "testing of claims" and some of you will most probably not like it. I know that.
But these are honest questions. For some of them I just don't know the answer or if Islam has an answer. Some of them I have asked before and did not get any real answer and by now, after nearly 3 years of discussion with Muslims I doubt that Islam is able to give a satisfactory answer. Some others I have never asked before and maybe you will indeed have good answers to them. I hope we can discuss these things in a spirit of respect for each other and concentrate on the questions instead of attacking the integrity of the persons involved in the discussion.
Most of these questions I will present just as a thinking human being and they do not have anything to do with my Christian faith (apart from the fact that the Bible tells us to seek understanding and to use our God given ability to reason). A few more questions I will ask based on my faith as a Christian.
The Qur'an repeatedly states the challenge (2:111, 27:64, 28:75):
I hope that Muslims will gladly abide by this standard which the Qur'an itself sets, and will not take offense when non-Muslims ask for the evidence in regard to the claims of Islam "to possess the absolute truth", just as you take the freedom to question any other world view for its foundations and validity.
Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidences. And Islam has the exclusivity claim of being the only available true, and even the final revelation of God, not only to the Arabs but to all mankind. These are indeed lofty claims and I hope you do not just expect anybody to accept them simply because you say so but are prepared to back up these claims with just as impressive evidence for its validity.
One last remark: Many Christians will be more than happy to answer any honest questions you may have in regard to Christianity and you are most welcome to voice those on the soc.religion.christian newsgroup or to email me in regard to them. But, let it be said, even if you could disprove the claims of Christianity, that does not say anything in itself about the truth of Islam. If Christianity is right, then Islam is wrong. But if Christianity is wrong, you are still in debt to prove that Islam is not also wrong. For example, it would not be very impressive to a Hindu if your only argument for Islam is that the Bible is wrong. Therefore, I would ask to keep this thread free from counterattacks on Christianity and concentrate on the answers Islam is giving to the questions raised.
Why do they not study the Quran carefully?
If it were from other than GOD,
they would have found in it numerous contradictions.
-- Sura 4:82
Maybe there are not many "internal" contradictions, but I do have the impression, that there are a number of weighty contradictions between Islamic claims and historical reality.
And questions from history will be the first topic I want to bring to your attention.
Copyright © 1997 Jochen Katz. All rights reserved.
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