We have noted before that we have a responsibility as Christians to understand the times. We do not seek to do so infallibly, but we do want to live our lives in wisdom. This said, there are many good reasons for believing that the conflict between the Christian faith and Islam will occupy in the twenty-first century the place that the Cold War occupied in the twentieth. Christians cannot afford to neglect this issue, and as we take it on, we will discover that the Scriptures teach us far more about this than we might have expected.
“And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren”
The context of this passage is the first flight of Hagar from her mistress Sarai. Sarai had suggested to Abraham that he raise up seed “by proxy,” but after Hagar had conceived, she began to put on airs, which Sarai obviously found intolerable, and so she arranged to have Hagar banished. An angel of the Lord comforts Hagar (vv. 7-8), and tells her to return to her mistress and to submit to her (v. 9). In the course of this, a prophecy is given—that Ishmael will be an ancestor of multitudes (v. 10). His name will in fact be Ishamel (v. 11). But then there is a very telling prophecy—he is going to be ornery; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand will be against him (v. 12). He and his descendants would be a great source of conflict. And so it has been.
Now the New Testament tells us that the typology of Ishmael was fulfilled in the unbelief of the Jews (Gal. 4:24). But given the nature of typology and prophecy, we do not need to stop there. The Koran explicitly identifies Muslims as the children of Ishmael, claiming that the Ka’ba in Mecca was actually built by Abraham and Ishamael (Surah 2:122-127). Now, biologically, this is quite possible, but it is also beside the point. If you have a people who have, for about a millennium and a half, identified themselves as Ishmael, it is not surprising that they have become spiritual Ishmael, even if they were not before. But Hagar “gendereth to bondage,” as St. Paul says, and another result of this is conflict—his hand against every man.
An Important Qualification:
We believe that Jesus Christ died for all the nations of men, and has purchased them with His own precious blood. This includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Indonesia, Egypt, and Pakistan. The fact that these places are largely unevangelized thus far is not an indicator of the future. Christ will not be satisfied until all of Ishmael is brought back into the house of Abraham. This obviously means that nothing said in this series of messages should be taken as expressing hatred toward Muslims. God loves the world, and all the nations of men, and so do we. But we live in hyper-sensitive times, and it has become a dogma among secularists that in order to love a cancer patient you have to approve of his cancer too. But this is not the biblical approach. Muslims are held in spiritual bondage by the tenets of Islam, a false and very destructive
religion, and it is not loving to pretend that this is not the case—all for the sake of political correctness. This is a topic where it is easy for cowardice to masquerade as love and tolerance, and where genuine love takes courage. Love does not refuse to speak the truth. How could it?
A Brief History Lesson:
Muhammad was born around 570 A.D, a native of Mecca. When he was twelve his uncle took him to Syria, where a Nestorian Christian monk prophecied over him. When he was 25, he married his first wife, Khadija, in a ceremony performed by an Ebionite Christian priest—a cousin of his wife. Fifteen years later, he began receiving his first “revelations” from the angel Gabriel. He was at first worried that it was demonic possession, but his wife assured him that it was from God. Three years later, he began to preach openly in Mecca about these revelations. He was rejected and handled roughly by his peers. Finally, thirteen years after his first revelations, he fled from Mecca to Medina. This flight marks “year one” of the Muslim calendar, and the flight is called the hijra. His first wife had died, and it was now that many of the distinctive features of Islam began to take shape. He married the daughter of one of his most loyal followers (a girl named Aisha, six years old), consumating that marriage when she was nine. He became a marauder and pirate, ordering attacks on Meccan caravans. Two years later, Muhammad began ordering assassinations in order to gain control of Medina. He took multiple wives, and finally in 630 A.D. he conquered Mecca, when he was sixty. Tribes from all over that area submitted to his authority. He died at age 64, of a fever, just four years later.
Before he died, Muhammad sent out letters to many world leaders, demanding their submission. In the years following his death, the Islamic faith exploded out of Saudi Arabia in quite a remarkable way. The high water mark of the first great Muslim expansion ended in France just shy of one hundred years later, at the Battle of Tours in 732 A.D.. Charles Martel turned back what had been, up to that time, an invincible force. Islam made it to India in the east, and France in the west. The Mediterranean had become a Muslim lake. And as one person put it, if the Nobel Prize committee had been active in the year 1000, all the prizes would have gone to Muslims. The next period of attempted Muslim expansion into Europe was some centuries later—the Ottoman Turks were defeated in the great siege of Malta (1565), the sea battle of Lepanto (1571), and finally turned back from Vienna in 1683 (ironically fought on September 11-12). The tense relationship between Islam and Christendom was very much like the relationship of Calormen to Narnia.
The Koran is not organized chronologically, but rather the same way the letters of Paul are organized in the New Testament—by length. This leads many people to think that “peace” verses in the Koran and “war” verses are all jumbled together, to be sorted out as the occasion demands. But the peace verses were from the first Meccan period, and they were abrogated by the jihad verses that began in Medina. “If we abrogate a verse or cause it to be forgotten, We will replace it with a better one or one similar” (Surah 2:106). This is related to the nature of Allah, and is quite distinct from what we receive from our triune God.
A Mirror of Christendom:
Pastor Leithart has written that Islam is a mirror of Christendom, and in it we can see many of our own failings and sins. It is more like a funhouse mirror, but that is why, in this series, we will be able to clarify what the Bible actually teaches on subjects like the law, and women, and the Jews, and submission to authority. We do this as baptized Trinitarians.