Author Archives: Andrew@neartheword

God Preserves His Word

Part 6 in the “We Believe the Bible” series: Addresses a couple of very common questions that people ask Christians about the Bible.  How do you know that you have the right books in the Bible? How are you sure you have the right content in the Bible?

God Preserves His Word MP3

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The Grand Theme of the Bible

Part 5 in the “We Believe the Bible” series: 66 books with more than 100 characters and a great variety of stories and histories, but there is only one theme, one central person upon whom the whole Bible story is focused – Jesus Christ!

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God’s Miracle Workers

Part 4 in the “We Believe the Bible” Series: All through the Bible we can read about God’s servants performing miracles. They did things that clearly superseded the laws of nature, things that were contrary to the laws of nature. What was the purpose of the miracles? Why don’t we see these same types of things being done today?

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Archaeology: Unearthing Earthly Things

Part 3 in the “We Believe the Bible” Series: One of the reasons we trust the Bible is the amazing discoveries of Archaeology. Archaeology is all about Unearthing Earthly Things. Jesus challenged Nicodemus to believe the earthly things in order to believe the heavenly things. Christianity is a religion rooted in historical reality and fact.

Archaeology Unearthing Earthly Things MP3

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Amazing Prophecy

Part 2 in the Series: “We Believe the Bible” – Who is a prophet in popular thinking? How about Nostradamus? What are his prophecies like? Actually he falls far short of a biblical prophet. Fulfilled predictive prophecy is one of the “fingerprints” that God left on His book, the Bible.

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We Believe the Bible

As Christian we believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God. If we are going to believe the Bible, then we should believe in it for the very same reasons Paul mentions in these verses. We should believe the Bible because…

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A cappella Singing For All The Wrong Reasons?

Explaining the exclusive practice of a cappella praise in worship to someone else can be tricky. Nearly everyone who has tried to do it can recall both positive and frustrating experiences. It’s tough, because not everyone has the same background as you. For instance, your next-door neighbor might have sung in the church choir all of her life. But the Bible pattern is congregational singing. Or, perhaps your co-worker runs the sound-mixer for the praise band on Sundays. They will question things that you take as a given. Their religious beliefs might be very different, and there can be tension when those differences come up. But such discussions are important kingdom work, and while it might be difficult, each one is a precious opportunity.

 Since the church is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), it is her task to promote and educate – to explain Christianity to others. It is nearly automatic that when you bring a guest to worship, you will be asked to explain the unaccompanied congregational singing. It is vital we have a good explanation for our commitment to a cappella praise.

 While the question is inevitable, some brethren today seem wholly unprepared to explain their practice. When reading or listening to their reasoning for a cappella praise in worship, it appears they either aren’t convicted about it, or they honestly don’t know why they practice as they do. In short, they give bad reasons.

 For several years now, preachers and professors who should know better have been giving brethren (and non-Christians) all the wrong reasons for a cappella singing in worship. The effect has been a rise in the number of congregations willing to adopt instrumental music in worship, as they see no good reason to continue abstaining. Bad arguments and erroneous reasoning are easily answered by Instrumentalists among churches of Christ. The impression made is that brethren in the past had no good reason, no solid ground upon which to stand when they opposed the intrusion of instrumental music in worship. Today, some preachers are even calling brethren to repentance for their commitment to a cappella praise.[1] Others publicly apologize to Instrumentalists in Christian Churches and the denominational world for the stand on church music taken by members of churches of Christ in the past.[2]

 Let’s consider three common “wrong” reasons given for a cappella singing in worship.

 Bad explanation: Brethren sing a cappella because it is the Church of Christ doctrine on music.

 With a thoroughly denominational view of the Lord’s body, some contend that the Church of Christ doctrine on church music requires a cappella singing. They see churches of Christ as just another denomination whose peculiar reading of the Bible by church leaders in the late nineteenth century “banned musical instruments from all worship services.”[3]

 However, there is no earthly headquarters, council, or creed book one appeals to for the “Church of Christ” position on any matter – including church music. The church of Christ has no synod, nor catechism, nor convention, nor pope. There is no “Church of Christ” denomination, so how can there be a “Church of Christ” doctrine establishing or “banning” anything?

 Does that mean churches of Christ submit to no authority? Of course not. Churches of Christ do hold to doctrine – New Testament teaching – the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42; 1 Tim. 1:3; 4:16). These inspired preachers set forth the pattern of pleasing worship to God that all Christians need to follow. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the apostles had perfect remembrance of all Jesus taught (John 14:26), and they never mentioned or practiced instrumental music in worship. The apostles were guided into all truth (John 16:13), and they never commanded any music besides vocal. They consistently taught the church to sing together (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Any kind of music other than vocal cannot be Jesus’ wishes or of theTruth, because the apostles are silent about it.

 A cappella singing in worship assemblies is practiced because it is the apostles’ doctrine (found in the Bible) on the matter – not because it is a “Church of Christ” doctrine. If there were a “Church of Christ” doctrine, it might change as the leadership changes (like the Episcopalian and Presbyterian Churches changed positions on the sin of homosexuality), but the Bible does not change.

 Bad explanation: Brethren sing a cappella because it is their tradition.

 A cappella singing is more than a tradition, though Instrumentalist preachers among brethren won’t admit it. One preacher for a local church of Christ went on record saying,

 “We view the a cappella practices of the Churches of Christ as a tradition….We don’t find there is anything wrong with instrumental worship, but we do respect the tradition of our forefathers. We think the voice alone is a very beautiful way to worship God.”[4]

 It’s true that brethren have sung together in worship for thousands of years. But a practice is not biblically authorized or unauthorized simply because it is the current practice or even a long-standing one. If tradition is the rule, then a long tradition of accompanied singing is as valid as a long tradition of unaccompanied singing. The question is, which one does God want? Tradition alone is not a good criterion to determine the worship God deems beautiful.

 Following the New Testament pattern is a good explanation for vocal music (2 Tim. 1:13; 2 Thess. 3:6). Early Christians sang in their assemblies, so Christians should sing in worship today (1 Cor. 14:15, 26; Col. 3:16). There is no example of Jesus, the apostles, or any of the early Christians ever practicing any kind of music other than singing.

 A cappella singing in worship assemblies is practiced because it follows the New Testament pattern, not for the sake of tradition. The traditions of men cannot substitute or supersede the word of God.

 Bad explanation: Brethren sing a cappella because it is their preference.

 Some brethren purport that a cappella praise is not a doctrinal issue at all; it’s just a personal choice. It’s all about your preference and taste. One congregation describes worship assemblies on their website thusly:

 Our worship consists of singing, prayers, communion (Lord’s Supper), and a message from the Bible. The singing is a cappella, meaning that we worship without instruments. This is by choice, rather than doctrine. We find nothing wrong with instrumental worship, but believe that the voice alone is a simple & beautiful way to worship God.[5]

 Sonny Childs chronicles his “journey on…instrumental music in worship” in the book The Music Made Me Do It! and concludes that church music is a Romans 14 disputable matter. He sees the real error as drawing lines of fellowship over it. However, he will continue to sing a cappella, because he’s used to it and he likes it. Childs writes, “Today, I am a minister for a conservative acappella church of Christ deep in the heart of the buckle of the Bible belt. As an author and evangelist, I spend much time each year traveling among and holding Gospel meetings for conservative, acappella churches of Christ. I prefer acappella music and I love to sing bass during our worship services.”[6]

 Worship should not be dictated by the tastes of humanity rather than God’s preference (John 4:23-24). God alone determines the worship that pleases Him; no man can do it (Matt. 15:8-9). Mankind’s religious preference is mere presumption before almighty God. God sent Jesus (Hebrews 1:1-2), who in turn sent the apostles (Hebrews 2:1-4), who taught and declared the New Covenant (Hebrews 7:11-16) and the worship that God desires. The worship of God in His church is a doctrinal matter and not left to personal preferences and tastes.

 A cappella singing in worship assemblies is practiced because God has revealed His pleasure in church music – He directed vocal praise in the scriptures. The Bible is the only source to learn God’s preferences.


Singing praise to God is what the New Testament directs and exemplifies for Christian worship. Vocal music is the authorized music of the assembly; instrumental music is not. Playing instrumental music in worship – or as worship – is going beyond what is written, thus adding to the word of God. God is never pleased when men innovate His prescribed ways. Mankind lacks the ability to improve upon God’s ordained worship, but unfortunately does possess a long and storied history of profaning it.

[1] See Corbitt, Danny. Missing More Than Music. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2008. See also, Young, Ken. “The Blending of Acappella & Instrumental Worship.” A study prepared for the Fourth Avenue church of Christ in Franklin, TN. Presented on April 27, 2008. p.5

[2] See  Atchley, Rick and Bob Russell. Together Again: Renewing Unity in Christ after a Century of Separation. Abilene, TX: Leafwood Publishers, 2006.  See also Ross, Jr. Bobby. “Ministers Exchange Bibles at Convention.” The Christian Chronicle. 1 August 2006.

[3] See Smietana, Bob. “Churches of Christ drop isolationist view, work with other faiths.” The Tennessean. Nashville, TN: 31 January 2010.

[4] Swisher, Skyler. “CA Teacher’s Jobs Threatened Over Church Attendance.” The Daily Herald Columbia, TN: 21 May 2008: 3A

[6] Childs, Sonny. The Music Made Me Do It! Childs Family Publications, 2006. p.23

Can Instrumental Music Save The Youth?

“Where have all the young people gone?” It’s the heart-wrenching question too many older saints are asking among congregations of God’s family. The story is familiar: Children are “raised in the church” – they go to Bible class and worship assemblies, listen to gospel sermons, and are baptized. But after high school, some of these same children (now young adults) leave the church to attend a denomination or other religious group; some turn their backs on religion entirely.

A study published by Abilene Christian University reported that, “Forty-five percent of all teenagers raised in Churches of Christ end their affiliation sometime after high school graduation.” The study also noted nearly one-third lose faith in Christ altogether.[1] What is to be done to retain the youth of the church?

 In recent years, some preachers, professors, and elders among “mainstream” Churches of Christ have actively promoted introducing instrumental music into congregational worship as an effort toward youth retention. They have argued implicitly (others explicitly) that congregational a cappella singing doesn’t connect with young folks, and churches could keep their youth while attracting others by blending instrumental music with the “tradition” of vocal music.

 For example, Danny Corbitt wrote a book advocating instrumental music in worship entitled Missing More Than Music. In it, he recounts his time as a youth leader, missionary, and state college minister for Churches of Christ. Throughout his ministry years, he was never convicted about a cappella praise. He writes, “God reminded me that I could only call people to what I was certain that he had said. So, I never taught a cappella; I avoided the topic as much as possible… We sang a cappella, but I couldn’t teach on it.”[2] When a denominational campus minister asked him his views on instrumental music, Corbitt told him he, “didn’t understand our arguments.”[3] He found students in his campus ministry equally unconvinced about a cappella praise. Corbitt argues that the opposition of Churches of Christ to instrumental music in worship is largely responsible for youth leaving the church.

 Whether or not you agree with our [members of Churches of Christ – A.R.] opposition to instruments and choruses, you should know that most of our students who go away to college are not convinced… I had to take into account the role of views like our opposition to choruses and instruments in the exodus of the students from our churches. Right now, you may think that whatever I believe about instruments and choruses is wrong, but we must ask why our sons and daughters are most likely to leave our churches.[4]

 Another preacher justifies his congregation’s adopting instrumental music in worship as a strategy to retain and appeal to the youth. His congregation already provided instrumental music in a variety of settings for their youth, and it was time to bring it into the assembly, lest the youth leave for another church or leave the Lord altogether. The only way to save the a cappella “tradition” for the future was to go instrumental now.

 I believe the best way to preserve an acapella tradition for future generations is to offer both acapella and instrumental worship in a creative blend. There are several reasons for this conclusion… Our children experience instrumental praise in their programming. Our teens enjoy praise concerts at their gatherings. When they leave home they are finding it increasingly difficult to connect in churches that are exclusively acappella. Some studies suggest as high as 80 percent of our children who graduate from high school are now choosing other churches to attend if they attend at all.[5]

 In fact, youth appeal has been a major defense for “mainstream” Churches of Christ adding instrumental music. Oak Hills Church in San Antonio was one of the first congregations to do so in 2003. They launched a new Sunday evening service featuring instruments that was “geared toward young adults.”[6]

 Instrumentalists among Churches of Christ contend that there must be instrumental music for the sake of the youth. When reflecting upon “why our sons and daughters are most likely to leave our churches,” brethren are supposed to conclude that most likely it’s the music. Somehow singing throughout their youth has made it difficult to connect with churches that exclusively sing; they prefer churches with praise-rock bands instead. So to save the youth (at least to retain them), churches must develop services “geared toward young adults,” which apparently necessitates the inclusion of instrumental music in worship.

 Who is not concerned when young adults turn away from their Creator and their spiritual family? It is painful. So Instrumentalists among Churches of Christ persuade undiscerning or emotionally distraught Christians that altering the corporate worship and adding instrumental music will safeguard the youth. People will do just about anything for their kids – even revise their worship. Though the Instrumentalists have been pushing their views for years, their agenda is not logical, and it does not follow the Bible.

 First, it does not follow logically that adding instrumental music will ultimately keep the youth. In 2008, the Pew Research Center interviewed 35,000 adults to gain a picture of the American religious landscape. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found, “More than one-quarter of American adults have left the faith of their childhood for another religion or no religion at all…Factoring in moves from one stream or denomination of Protestantism to another, the number rises to 44 percent…the 44 percent figure is ‘a very conservative estimate,’ and more research is planned to determine the causes.”[7] These findings mirror the A.C.U. study done among Churches of Christ.

 If every religious group in the U.S. is losing 44 or 45% of their youth, how is it reasonable to conclude instrumental music is the great cure-all that will turn the tide for Churches of Christ? At least 44% of the youth among our denominational neighbors is leaving too, yet, the denominations have largely been using instrumental music in the U.S. for approximately 150 years! Certainly music in worship could be a factor in a Christian’s decision to leave the church, but it is not the sole reason they “are most likely to leave.” If it were, the instrumental denominations would have nothing like the 44% loss rate of youth they are experiencing.

 Furthermore, it does not follow biblically that adding instrumental music will benefit the youth. The Old Testament chronicles generation after generation of the Israelites. One generation would be faithful to God, but the next would depart from the Lord to serve idols. God would send prophets to work with the wayward generations, and these men were never instructed to take those elements of cultural entertainment (or pagan rites) that the youth found exciting and incorporate them into Tabernacle worship in order to retain straying Israelites. Instead, the prophets cried out, “Repent!” Innovation in worship wasn’t prized by God – faithfulness was.

 Today, Christians need to realize that if God’s worship is profaned in order to attract or keep the youth, the youth simply become involved in the errors of vain and false worship (Matthew 15:7-9). It must be determined from the New Testament what music pleases God, and there Christians must stand. If the youth decide to leave it, regrettably, that is their choice. For congregations to capitulate to our entertainment-driven culture’s ideal of desirable worship is grievous error.

 God revealed the music He desired for Christian worship. He said “sing” in the New Testament, and He said it a number of times (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 14:15). He did not say, “play instruments” in the New Testament, and there is no example of Jesus or any of the apostles ever doing so for worship. The early Christians did not play instruments for worship, either. Believers sang to God for the first several centuries of the church.

 The early Christians sang to praise God, and they sang to encourage and edify one another (Hebrews 13:15; 10:24-25; Colossians 3:16). That’s what Christians (especially the youth) need to know now. God gave them a voice with a purpose – a ministry – in the worship of the congregation. Their ministry is one of teaching and admonishing. They educate, exhort, and correct both themselves and the congregation with the “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” that they profess by singing to “one another” (Colossians 3:16).

 Far from being the cause of the “exodus,” a cappella congregational song should anchor young Christians in the Lord’s church. Understanding the biblical basis of the practice can be a significant factor in their future faithfulness. Instrumentalists cry that churches must add instrumental music for the sake of the youth, but brethren understand: a cappella praise glorifies and pleases God.

[1] Lewis, David K., Carley H. Dodd and Darryl L. Tippens. The Gospel According to Generation X. Abilene, TX: ACU Press, 1995. pp.170-171.

[2] Corbitt, Danny. Missing More Than Music. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2008. p.4

[3] Corbitt p.4

[4] Corbitt p.5

[5] Young, Ken. “The Blending of Acappella & Instrumental Worship.” A study prepared for the Fourth Avenue church of Christ in Franklin, TN. Presented on April 27, 2008.

[6] Rivas, Lisa. “Oak Hills drops ‘Church of Christ.’” San Antonio Express-News, Sept. 6, 2003.

[7] “Survey: U.S. Religious Landscape in Flux.” The Associated Press. Mon., Feb. 25, 2008. Accessed on 2/27/2008.

Dirty Feet and Proud Hearts (John 13:1-17)

Imagine hosting Thanksgiving dinner for your entire family. There is great effort and expense to make the day special and unforgettable. Perhaps due to failing health this will be the last holiday everyone can be together. But as the meal goes on, you realize things are amiss around the table. Some of the cousins are speaking in harsh hushed tones. Others are being short and curt, speaking through clenched teeth. Soon smiles are strained and the “special” family time is turning ugly. What would you do? You want to intervene and make peace before the holiday is wrecked.

Similarly, Jesus desired a pleasant Passover feast with the twelve. He said, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:14-15). Yet this special holiday meal was marred by disputing disciples. An ongoing argument among the twelve got stirred up as dinner was winding down. They argued over who was the greatest (Luke 22:24)!

It is in this climate that Jesus intervened and did the unexpected. He settled the dispute among His twelve in an unforgettable way: He washed their feet.

“Jesus…rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded” (John 13:3-5).

There is a connection between dirty feet and proud hearts in the last supper accounts.

Proud Hearts and Dirty Feet

The apostles’ feet are dirty because they have been walking. When you combine the old Jerusalem roads (dusty, dirty, muddy) and the footwear of the day (thin leather souls tied on with cords) the result is dirty, hot (perhaps even wounded) feet. The apostles had walked to this borrowed house for the Passover.

But why are their feet dirty during the meal?  No one had washed them. Evidently no one was assigned the task of washing feet and none volunteered.

Foot washing was simple etiquette. How could it be overlooked? Were the apostles too careless or lazy to wash feet? Luke’s record makes the situation clear: there was a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest (Luke 22:24). The apostles were not lazy, apathetic, or uncouth. They were proud.

Their dirty feet testified to their proud hearts. No one was going to stoop below the other to perform a lowly and demeaning service. Washing feet was slave work. Performing this task would surrender status in the eyes of the group. The apostles were jockeying for position in King Jesus’ court.

Leave it to Jesus, then, to humble His apostles by humbling Himself. Instead of being the guest of honor, He got up from the table. My guess is, that the apostles’ contentions kept them from noticing Jesus excusing Himself (after all, a man leaves the table for any number of reasons) – but when Jesus came back to the table with His dress so different, carrying a towel and basin and kneeling before the first disciple, it took the air out of the room. I imagine a sudden silence as twelve men are perplexed, embarrassed and even ashamed of themselves, to see Jesus washing feet (John 13:6, 8).

Jesus taught by example and precept to serve one another (John 13:12-17; Luke 22:25-27). If you want a position in Christ’s kingdom, there is only one office – servant to all! When your Lord, Teacher, and King serves… that makes you a servant, too!

But that night, the apostles were too proud to think of themselves as servants. They had proud hearts and the proof was their dirty feet. If only pride could be washed away as easily as the dirt on feet. But pride tends to cling.

Pride Clings When You Refuse to Serve

Why do we refuse to serve others at times? Does pride get the best of us? Perhaps we refuse to serve because of the task. There can be jobs that we believe ourselves to be above doing. We can see a need but ignore it for we imagine such is beneath us.

Or perhaps we refuse to serve because of a person? We are tempted to think we are better than another person and so resist serving them. For instance, if we imagine ourselves in this last supper situation and determined that we would do the right thing and wash feet, wouldn’t it be easier to wash Jesus’ feet than Judas’? Even though both sat at the table and both required that humble hospitality? It can be the person. Pride clinging to our hearts tells us that we are too good to do a menial task and/or we are better than another person. Either way we refuse to serve.

Do we honestly think we are better than our fellow man? Because we have more money or education, do we look down on others? Do we look down on others for their race or gender? Jesus Christ destroyed all such prideful notions. There is not a need of our brethren or neighbors that is beneath us. It is pride clinging to us when we refuse to serve. Such pride must be cleansed! Let us be clothed with humility, just as Jesus put on a towel to wash dirty feet (1 Peter 5:5-6).

Pride Clings When You Resist Others’ Service

Amazingly, Peter objects to Jesus’ service (John 13:6-8). This is ugly pride also! Sometimes we need a little help, mercy, aid, charity, or forgiveness and our pride will not allow us to ask for it – we even resist it if such is offered.

My two-year-old has been asserting her independence lately. Regardless of what her mother tries to help her with, she has been protesting, “No help! Livy do it! I do it myself.” Parents are glad to see a toddler learning some self-sufficiency. However, stubborn adults with an immature attitude of, “I do it all myself!” is unattractive and prideful.

The Secret to Humble Service: Know Who You Are

Jesus knew “all things” were in His hands yet He took up a towel (John 13:5-6). There is a connection between His knowledge and His actions. Because Jesus knew who He was, He did what He did (John 13:1-5). Furthermore, Jesus loved His disciples (John 13:1, 5). While such power and position might tempt us to pride, Jesus showed humility – especially ministering to those He loved. He washed their feet.

The Christian’s identity is found in Christ. Notice these parallels:

  • Jesus’ hour had come (John 13:1)/ Christians redeem the time (Eph. 5:16)
  • Jesus should depart to be with the Father (John 13:1)/ Christians know the Lord shall come (Matt. 24:36)
  • The Father had given all things into Jesus’ hands (John 13:3)/ God gives Christians resources for His purposes (2 Cor. 9:10-11)
  • Jesus came from God (John 13:3)/ Christians are the family of God (1 Tim. 3:15)
  • Jesus was going to God (John 13:3)/ Christians are going to God through Christ (John 14:6)

Furthermore, just as Jesus loved His apostles and served them, we serve who we love. Christians serve God (Mark 12:30), Brethren (1 John 3:10-11), Family (Eph. 5:33; Titus 2:4; 1 Tim. 5:8), Neighbors (Mark 12:31), and even Enemies (Matt. 5:44). When we serve them, we love “in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

Dirty feet can be washed with water, but proud hearts are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb and corrected with humble service.

The Threat of Militant Islam

  (This article appeared in Biblical Insights, July 2007) 

            Islam has been hijacked! We have heard that catchphrase often since 9/11. From politicians to reporters to daytime talk show hosts, we have been told that a quiet, peace-loving, Middle Eastern religion has been kidnapped and corrupted by radicals who hate freedom.

            In 2002, President George W. Bush said, “Islam is a vibrant faith. Millions of our fellow citizens are Muslim. We respect the faith. We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not. Our enemy doesn’t follow the great traditions of Islam. They’ve hijacked a great religion.”[i]

            This idea has been repeated for nearly six years. Islam’s potential militancy is marginalized in news reports with words like “radical,” “factional,” “sectarian.” Such words enforce the notion that only Islam on the fringes is violent – true Islam is a tradition of peace.

The Islamic sectarian violence often reported on the nightly news raises fair questions about Islam’s supposed peaceful nature. For instance: “Why is it okay for any Muslim to violently attack another Muslim and remain consistent within his faith system?” After all, Methodists don’t lob bombs at Baptists, yet they are separate Christian sects. There must be something fundamentally different about Islam. Could it be that Muslim militancy is religiously authorized?

New Testament Christians can understand militant Islam. When Muslims adhere to the Qur’an as we do the Bible, they will be violent and aggressive toward non-Muslims. Their book directs it:

“O Prophet, urge the faithful to fight. If there are twenty among you with determination they will vanquish two hundred; and if there are a hundred then they will vanquish a thousand unbelievers, for they are people devoid of understanding.” – Surah 8:65[ii]

Muslim apologists argue that militancy is not a true expression of Islam, but merely a regrettable corruption. They contend that if Islam was truly militant, all Muslims would rise up and fight, yet the majority do not. Therefore, Islam is not actually violent. Unfortunately, this reasoning is flawed.

Consider, do all self-professed Christians behave as if the Bible is the Word of God and they are responsible to follow what it says? Obviously not. For instance, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 states, “Neither…homosexuals, nor sodomites…will inherit the kingdom of God.” Yet the Episcopal Church leads the way among liberal denominations that sanction homosexuality, appointing openly gay leadership and accepting gay marriage. Has the Bible changed its position because Episcopalians deem it archaic and unpalatable? Is it true to say that the Bible is pro-gay simply because recent adherents ignore what it says about the sin of homosexuality?

            So it is with Islamic militancy. Thankfully, most modern-day Muslims in the West say they would not literally practice the violent precepts of the Qur’an. They interpret its call to arms as allegory, an internal struggle against unbelief. However, that does not eliminate the book’s promotion of violence. And we should not conclude that those who read it fundamentally are radicals, heretics, or hijackers. They simply treat it as the word of their god, Allah.

It is tempting to interpret the message of a religion solely by the behavior of its most recent adherents. But look to its scripture, and learn of its founder, to see the truth of the matter. Frankly, many people buy into the hijacker hype because they don’t take the time to investigate Islam.

Perhaps Westerners avoid the Qur’an because they would prefer to believe that a fringe group of hate-mongers is giving a respectable world religion a black eye. It is too upsetting to Western multicultural philosophy to entertain the notion that a religion could inherently be violent, oppressive, and evil. Yet read the scripture of Islam, and you will discover why they hate, and why they hate us.

Militant Muslims hate us because their god, Allah, hates us. The Qur’an teaches that Allah hates his enemies – non-Muslims – and states clearly they should be physically conquered and ruled. Muslims are to accomplish this whether they want to or not.

“Say: ‘If you love God then follow me that God may love you and forgive your faults; for God is forgiving and kind.’ Say: ‘Obey God and His Messenger;’ and if they refuse (then remember) God does not love disbelievers.” – Surah 3:31-32

“O believers, fight the unbelievers around you, and let them realize that you are firm: Remember, God is with those who are pious and obedient to Him.” – Surah 9:123

“Enjoined on you is fighting, and this you abhor. You may dislike a thing yet it may be good for you; or a thing may haply please you but may be bad for you. Only God has knowledge and you do not know.” – Surah 2:216 

            Militant Muslims also hate other Muslims (whom they deem apostate) because Allah hates disobedient Muslims. But Allah loves fighters.

“Unless you go out (to strive), God will inflict grievous punishment on you, and bring other people in your place, and you will not be able to harm Him in the least, for God has power over all things.” – Surah 9:39

“Surely God loves those who fight in His cause in full formations as though they were a compact wall.” – Surah 61:5

Christians can understand loving God supremely. But the love of God that the Bible teaches means a wholesome treatment of enemies and unbelievers (Matt. 10:34-39; Matt. 5:43-48). The God of the Bible loves His enemies, and sent Jesus as a precious sacrifice to redeem them (Rom.5:6-11; Eph. 1:7). Christians are supposed to lovingly influence non-Christians to choose Christ. Muslims are commanded to subdue non-Muslims into conversion (Surah 2:193;8:39; 9:5).

            Some theorize that terrorist organizations easily recruit suicide bombers because the men have no jobs, no homes, little education, and no freedom. The conclusion: Muslims are willing to kill and be killed for socio-economic-political reasons. Doubtless those issues are contributing factors. However, the big elephant sitting in the room is the Qur’an’s precepts to fight, kill, and die in Allah’s cause. The bombers love Allah. They truly want to go to Paradise rather than Hell. And not only is Death in Jihad honorable, it is the direct path to Paradise (Surah 3:157-158, 195).

“So, when you clash with the unbelievers, smite their necks until you overpower them, then hold them in bondage. Then either free them graciously or after taking a ransom, until war shall have come to end… He will not allow the deeds of those who are killed in the cause of God to go to waste. He will show them the way, and better their state, and will admit them into gardens with which He has acquainted them.” – Surah 47:4-6

Western ideology is that they die because they have little to live for. But that perspective fails to admit that their religion teaches them they have everything to kill and die for! There is a significant difference between the two motivations.

            It seems that the West’s plan to diffuse Islamic violence is to give the militants earthly reasons to live. Simply seduce Muslims with materialistic Western culture, as if money, blue jeans, and the American dream will pacify the threat. But none of it changes a single word in the Qur’an.

            Our civil government cannot deliver us from a religion that hates us. When violence is answered with violence, the religion gains martyrs and strengthens its resolve. Answering violence with the enticements of earthly treasure is offensive to a person of faith. Both are physical solutions to an inherently spiritual problem.

            So what can be done about the militant Muslims’ hatred?

The word of Truth equips Christians for spiritual warfare, which is where the solution to Islam’s hatred is found (2 Cor. 10:3-5; Eph.6:10-18). The gospel can do what governments can not: subdue a false religion by rescuing souls from it. Christians must work more fervently to convert their neighbors to Christ before the spreading Muslim religion wins them. Christians should take every opportunity to speak with their Muslim neighbor about the Truth.

Furthermore, Christians can aid their nation by considering prayerfully the candidates they vote for (1 Tim. 2:1-4;Rom.13:1-7). If a self-professed moderate Christian becomes a better Christian once in office, we have nothing to fear. But if a self-proclaimed moderate Muslim becomes more devout in office, we may fully realize the threat of militant Islam.

[ii] All quotations from the Qur’an are taken from Al-Qur’an: A Contemporary Translation by Ahmed Ali, Princeton University Press, 1993.