What is Christianity?
Christianity is about the Gospel. The word Gospel means “good news.” Christianity is about the news of what God has done in history centering on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The Apostle Paul summarizes the kernel of Christianity in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4,
1Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,
2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
If Jesus did not die on the cross and rise again from the dead, then Christianity is untrue,
1 Corinthians chapter 15 verse 14
14And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.
God and history
God’s work in history is central to Christianity; in fact, we cannot know God apart from history.
Let me explain.
God’s act of creation is history. If there was no creation, then there would be nothing for us to know because we would not exist.
Our existence is dependent upon God’s work in history, and our knowledge of God is dependent upon God’s work in history.
History without God?
If there were such a thing as history apart from God, then there would not be history because there would be no God. Such an idea is blasphemous. History does not exist apart from God.
Emphasis on history is, in my estimate, one of the big differences between Christianity and Islam, the Bible and Quran. Or to state this in a slightly different manner: history is important to Islam, but not as important as it is in Christianity. The Quran emphasizes monotheism, and Muslims say God is the center of their belief,
Monotheism is the essence of Islam. It is the affirmation of believing that there is no other divinity other than God. For the most part, the spirit of the Quran revolves around the theme of pure monotheism. Thus, God is the center of a Muslim’s belief. Whereas other religions focus on individuals, for example, Christianity’s focus on Jesus Christ, Islam focuses solely on God. (Sayyid Mustafa al-Qazwini, Discovering Islam)
If Sayyid Mustafa al-Qazwini is correct and “Islam focuses solely on God”, then this is a major difference with Christianity. If and when Muslims read the Bible, they will learn that Christianity focuses on God and what God has done and revealed in history. This explains the Christian emphasis on the Gospel and Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus not only teach us about God’s work, but they teach us about God.
Apart from creation, monotheism would still be true, and the one true God would still exist. However, if it were not for creation we would never know the one true God because we are created beings. Therefore God’s work in history is essential to our knowing the one true God.
The Quran is not historically true. Therefore it is not a witness to God’s works or His Word.
The Quran was allegedly recited by an angel to Muhammad who then recited to others. Muhammad was a man. He was integral to what was written in the Quran.
However, Muhammad and the compilers of the Quran omitted previous Scripture. Earlier prophets did not omit previous revelation. Nor did Jesus. This is why the Christian Bible contains the Tanakh (Jewish Bible).
Not only did Muhammad omit, but he contradicted previous history as recorded in Scripture. To do such a thing is godless.
The Quran must be the Word of God because it hasn’t changed?
Muslims believe the Quran must be the Word of God because it hasn’t changed. Muslims believe that the Quran they possess today is what Muhammad recited in the 7th century. Even if this were the case, what does it prove?
The point to keep in mind is that past history cannot be changed.
The texts recording history can be changed; history can in this sense be “rewritten” or reinterpreted. But you can’t change the events of history. And yet Muhammad in the 7th century tried to change something that happened in the 1st century.
This is most evident in Islam’s denial of Jesus’ death on the cross.
The text of the Quran may be the same today. But this is irrelevant. The Quran is a corruption of history. The fact is that you can’t change in the 7th century something that happened in the 1st century. This means the Quran is not of God.
If the Quran is to be believed, then Muslims must with historical evidence and not speculative imagination. How did the texts we have throughout the centuries end up with Jesus teaching about His death on the cross? Why did Jesus’ closest disciples, like Peter, get it wrong? Islam has a lot of historical explaining to do, but Islam has historically failed in this matter.
Christianity is true and relevant
The Good News of Christianity (Gospel) is true because the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection happened in history,
“They [events pertaining to the Gospel] were true because they happened in history, and things that happen in history are not just true for direct participants, but are true for everyone” (Michael Horton, “Heaven Came Down”; Modern Reformation Nov./Dec. 1995 Vol. 4 No. 6).1
One of the reasons students study history, people ready daily newspapers, or check sports scores is because history is true for everyone.
Why not Islam?
Islam’s denial of Jesus’ death on the cross may have been newsworthy in the 7th century because it is a record of what Muhammad recited in the 7th century. But it was not newsworthy in the 1st century because it did not happen.
Since the Muslim account concerning Jesus’ death and resurrection did not happen in history, Islam is not true for everyone. Even more seriously, Islam is an untrue report, and falls short of declaring the importance of what God has done in history through Jesus.
The world says, “Christianity is true for you, but it’s not true for me.”
But this misses the point. What happens in history is true for everybody.
Do teachers say about the Holocaust, “Belief in the Holocaust is true for some, but not for everyone”? or “Your belief that Muhammad was a real person is true for you, but it’s not true for me?”
This kind of thinking is not only irrational; it’s dangerous.
Even more irrational and dangerous is dismissing, ignoring, or rejecting the historical events of Christianity. Christianity is like other historical events in that the events of the Gospels are true for everyone. But the significance of these events is immeasurably greater than the daily news we watch or read on Msnbc.com; Aljazeera.com; etc. because the Gospel is about God’s saving work in history.
- The importance that history is true for everyone is nicely illustrated in the excellent book “Denying History”, a refutation of Holocaust deniers. The following paragraphs from”Denying History” are about the questions some have raised about number of Jews who died in the Holocaust. It has important implications for varying details between the Gospels which Muslims often point to in denying the historic event of Jesus’ death on the cross,
How many Jews died at the hands of the Nazis? The second major axis around which Holocaust denial turns is the number of victims. Paul Rassinier concluded in his 1978 book, Debunking the Genocide Myth . . . that “a minimum of 4,419,908 Jews succeeded in leaving Europe between 1931 and 1945.” Therefore, he argued, far fewer than 6 million died at the hands of the Nazis. Most Holocaust scholars, however, using reliable figures and cross-checking them with other sources, place the total between 5.1 and 6.3 million Jewish victims. And, of course, there were many millions more killed by the Nazis, including gypsies, Poles, Serbs, Czechs, Soviet civilians, mentally and physically handicapped patients, political prisoners, Soviet POWs, and the countless civilians in towns and villages throughout Europe who simply got in the way.
While estimates vary, there is independent corroboration among historians, using different methods and different source materials. Indeed, the variation adds credibility to the figure of around six million, for it would be more likely that the numbers were “cooked” if they all came out the same . The fact that they do not come out the same but are withing a reasonable range of error variance gives us assurance that somewhere between the earlier estimates of five million and more recent estimates of six million Jews died in the Holocaust. Whether it is five or six million is central to the victims, but from the point of view of whether the Holocaust took place it is irrelevant. Either figure represents a large number of people. In any case, it was not several hundred thousand, or “only” one or two million, as some deniers suggest . . . (Michael Shermer & Alex Grobman, p.174; watch the C-Span interview of the authors).
If coauthor Michael Shermer, founder and publisher of Skeptic magazine, applied the same principles to Christianity that he uses in “Denying History”, I think he would have to become a Christian. [↩]