Hector Salamanca ⋅ 9 September 2016 ⋅ 109 views

Faith to Faith

This is a conversation I recently had with a Muslim man. We have been friends for several years. The names are fictional. The text is edited minimally.

• Hector Salamanca
Hey man, tell me about your faith situation.

• Abdul Haruj
hey, it’s not an earth shattering matter really. i’ve stopped praying for a long time now so i linked that with a lack of faith. because someone who is truly faithful must feel the presence of god around them all the time and be ashamed if they don’t deliver their daily duty. i’m just a lazy guy when it comes to prayer and this has been going for most of my life. the odd thing thing is that i enjoy praying, it gives me peace of mind. so i’m a bit restless. i’d like to go back to praying…

• Hector Salamanca
it is very good that you have a desire to pray. I think that there is a reason for your restlessness. Have you considered converting to Christianity?

• Abdul Haruj
The things is, whenever I listen to Quran, my heart seems to instinctively realize that it’s the word of God. And so I don’t think I’ll be leaving Islam any time soon. :-)

• Hector Salamanca
Have you read the Bible?

• Abdul Haruj
nope
btw, i thought there were only catholics and protestants in christianity. recently i figured out that i was wrong. i found a group named mormons, what’s the difference between you guys?

• Hector Salamanca
There are hundreds of varieties of Christianity - we are the most diverse group of people on earth. Large three different groups are Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, and Protestant Church.
We don’t consider Mormons Christians because they have their own prophet Joseph Smith, which we believe is a false prophet.
some of the differences are cultural and political, but some relate to doctrine Roman Catholic divided from Eastern Orthodox Church in 1054, because there was an adjustment made to Christian creed without consulting eastern Christians - this caused a scandal and division, still being repaired (there were also wars).
the Protestant Church formed in 1500s because the Roman Catholic church had too much corruption - they were selling God’s forgiveness for money, caused a huge scandal. i belong to a protestant church, but I accept any person who believes in Jesus and follows the Bible as Christian
i know a lot about history, I can type a book to your question, but i will answer very briefly to make this fun and easy for you - but ask anything, i know this subject well

• Abdul Haruj
then I guess I’ll just have to make the most of your offer haha
you say “the” bible, but to my knowledge there are a variety of books each claiming to be the bible. so what’s that about? and how do you recognize the one you should follow?

• Hector Salamanca
“Bible” is a collection of 66 books that has two parts: Old Testament (before Jesus was born) and New Testament (after Jesus was born). It was put together over about ~5000 years starting with Moses - the first five books were mostly authored by him. Later books were brought by prophets and they had to satisfy two criteria (1) they had to agree with previous prophets and (2) they contained new revelation about God confirmed by miracles or signs. Those two reasons are also the basis on which we reject the Quran.
There were books that people wanted to add to the Bible but they were rejected because of those 2 criteria. Those books are still available, so you can read them and decide for yourself. I read all of the Bible and books that were rejected from the Bible, and I agreed with the choices that the Church made in the past. We can talk about any of those books specifically, if you would like.
Most important books in the bible are called the Gospels (it means literally ‘good news’;) - those are 4 biographies of Jesus retold by different people.

• Abdul Haruj
I didn’t know that! Now, I understand. Thanks.
When you mentioned the two conditions for accepting a new book
the first thought to cross my mind was: why isn’t Quran among them?!
Then you added they were the reasons why it was rejected. What? :-P

• Hector Salamanca
That is one of the main reasons why I wanted to talk to you. There are a lot of substantial differences between the Bible and the Quaran, the greatest of which is information about Jesus. Quaran has very little of it, in the Bible, Jesus is the main figure.

• Abdul Haruj
well, the bible is like 60 books so … why don’t you guys consider that God sent Muhammed as a prophet to correct stuff that was misinterpreted in your faith? The message of Islam follows the same pattern as those before it: A man rises against the ignorance and disbelief and tells people to worship the single God. The same thing happened when Jesus came along, why did the jews accept him as a prophet while it’s not the same case with Muhammed?

• Hector Salamanca
That is something interesting about the Bible: none of the books cancel any of the previous words (although there are places where you new meaning is given to an older prophecy). All the prophets add to each other without canceling. Jesus said (in the Bible): I did not come to cancel the old prophets but to fulfill the promises that Allah gave to them.

• Abdul Haruj
could you tell me how long Jesus was alive and preaching people?

• Hector Salamanca
he was born around ~4BC , at roughly ~28AD he begins preaching and he leaves earth around ~30AD.
in Arabic calendar about 630 years before Mohammad
(by the way, your English got like +500% better over the years :-)

• Abdul Haruj
(I guess that’s the result of daily usage over many years :-) ) So, you’re telling me that Jesus only preached for two years and after over 20 years of his birth. Now, two question come to mind. The first is: What was he doing for 20 years? I thought he could speak to people when he was just a baby. How could people just leave him alone like that and not flock around him for his teachings?

• Abdul Haruj
(oh and I still feel lacking in my English skills btw)

• Hector Salamanca
Good questions. The story of Jesus talking as a baby is not found in the Bible, so Christians don’t share this story. We believe that Jesus is not only Prophet, but he was also Priest and King. Moses taught that priests must not enter service until they are 30 years old. Jesus kept all the requirements of Moses exactly. First 30 years of his life was worked as a carpenter, showed us what faithfulness and holiness looks like for a normal person every day.

• Abdul Haruj
I see. So, if I understand correctly, before reaching 30 he did not announce himself as savior or have any followers of any sort. Is that correct?

• Hector Salamanca
Mostly, John the Baptist (he is mentioned in the Quaran) preached “repent and prepare for Messiah’s coming” for about 10 years before Jesus began his public preaching. So he was announced, he just didn’t announce himself, John the Baptist did. Here is one episode from Jesus’ life when he was 12 recorded in the Bible (Luke 2):
“Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”

• Abdul Haruj
I see. Was he opposed during his 2 years of preaching? How badly was his opposition? How many followers did he garner throughout those two years?

• Hector Salamanca
Sometimes he gathered huge crowds of thousands of people, but he spent most of his time with 12 disciples that he hand-picked. He was conflicting mostly with Jewish religious authorities and they attempted to arrest him several times. During Passover (a major Jewish holiday) he entered into Jerusalem riding on a donkey (like Solomon) and chased merchants out of the temple with a whip. That got him arrested, but it was not enough to kill him. During the trial he was charged with blasphemy and insurrection - that led to his eventual execution. Those events are described in the Gospels in great detail.
When he was arrested, all his followers left him because they were afraid to be killed. Three days after he was crucified, he came back to life and appeared to about 500 people (including his disciples other than Judas). They become his first followers.

• Abdul Haruj
I find it extraordinary the amount he teached in just two years. What’s even awe-striking (to such a degree that is worthy of doubt), is the amount of records kept of his preaching in those two years when illiteracy was a common thing.

• Hector Salamanca
Me too. The level of detail and the content of each sermon is also stunning. Interesting thing about the Gospels is that they were very quickly translated into many languages and became the most common literature until today - nothing else is more published, translated, studied, and distributed today than the words and life of Jesus. Those words became #1 most common information on the planet within about 100 years of his birth, and they remain so today.

• Abdul Haruj
I read that Christianity’s wide spread was actually due to a roman ruler who enforced the faith into the empire instead of the old one. How did that come to fruition?

• Hector Salamanca
Constantine’s endorsement of Christianity in 312-325AD played a major role in the formation of religion, but it had already spread through the entire Roman Empire by that point. Christianity also rapidly spread East without any military involvement. When it became legal in the West, there were already Christian settlements in India, Syria, and Iraq. By 1200s, there were a lot more Christians living east of Jerusalem than West - we spread to China, Sri Lanka, Russia, Central Asia, there was even a settlement in Japan. The first country to entirely convert to Christianity was Armenia. All of those places were out of reach of Roman influence and all of them accepted the religion before any soldiers got involved. Christianity always spread faster than political borders even today. Most Christians today by population live in India and China.

• Abdul Haruj
hmm, now that’s some valuable insight into history. Can you tell me now how the mormon faith formed and why? I have a favorite writer who is mormon so I’d like to know more.

• Hector Salamanca
When America was discovered, many Christians ran away from Europe because they had problems with the Roman Catholic Church. In early American colonies, hundreds of new varieties of Christianity appeared, some of them traditional, some of them mixing new philosophies and ideas into their religion. Mormonism was one out of about 200 new types. It was started by a man called Joseph Smith who said he was a prophet. He had several criminal accusations against him, and so he moved away from east american coast with a group of followers inland to area known today as “Utah.” His book of prophecy is called the “Book of Mormon,” (you can read it online) it contains many strange stories about Jesus and Mormons add it to the Bible. Christians consider Mormonism a new american religion because they added an extra book to the Bible and separated from other churches. I have several Mormon friends, they are nice, but I don’t consider them Christians, although they talk about Jesus a lot.
There were many religious movements like Mormonism in the past, they typically disappear after 400 years or so. So on one hand they help people learn about Jesus, on the other, they mix strange teachings into Christianity and don’t develop communities that endure. For example, for many years Mormons promoted polygamy (which Christians reject). Recently another one of their prophets said that God no longer allows polygamy, so they cancelled it. But this creates a question: “If God cancelled polygamy, was prophet Joseph Smith wrong about it? And if so, what else was he wrong about that must be cancelled?”

• Abdul Haruj
I see… Now, a question related to Islam. I have some reservations about what early Muslims might have done against other faiths. That early history is a bit shrouded with mystery in my mind. I would like a Christian input on the matter. Was there acts against Christianity or Judaism? If so, how frequent or important were they?

• Hector Salamanca
I do my best to research for the most accurate information about Islam. There is a website called “sunnah.com” and it allows you to search all the hadiths by key words. Here are the search results for words “expel Christians:” http://sunnah.com/.. As you see the quotes come from the most authoritative Muslim sources and they indicate that Mohammad threatened many times to kick all the Jews and Christians out of Arabia and Umar went ahead and did it. There are cases recorded when Christians were killed or enslaved.
On the other hand, during the Umayyad expansion most of the population conquered by Muslims were Christians, and many Eastern Christians voluntarily joined into the new empire because it had lower taxes than the Byzantine Empire, Christians were exempt from military duty, and Muslims often treated them better than Western Chritians. Arabic Golden Age happened in large part because of peaceful and fruitful interactions between Muslims and Christians - at this time Islam actually helped Christianity spread very far (head of the Iraqi church Timothy I of Baghdad was actually emporewed and largely financed by the Caliph). This all changes around 1300 AD when Islam transitions into Mumluk and Turkish rule. From 1300 AD to about 1500 AD, Christians are massively executed in some of the worst massacres in human history that become a pattern. For example, even in the 1900s Turks murdered around 1 million Armenian Christians
(link: https://en.wikipedia.org/..). There are many other instances like this. So we had some good times and some really bad times between each other.

• Abdul Haruj
Thanks for the historical insight. As for the hadiths, I only spotted two that were problematic. The other ones were just repetitions of them. I’m going to ask around and see if any of this makes sense.

• Abdul Haruj
So, I didn’t get much answers because the thread I opened in a forum quickly turned into a quarrel about whether or not Islam supports freedom of faith. How promising! But I got a few answers that all revolve around those hadiths only relating to certain historical context, that the prophet was talking about certain groups of people and that those people betrayed the promises made which led to them being kicked out. To be honest the answers were not really convincing to me. Either they didn’t explain enough or they were simply wrong. In any case, I still have a few unanswered questions and confusions concerning Islam. I should sort them out one day and be over with it. But, back to Christianity, I have no further questions to ask at the moment. Thank you so much, you’ve been very helpful. And I’ll make sure to ask again if a question pops up!

• Hector Salamanca
Sounds good brother - glad to help. Keep in touch. One thing I’d like to make sure is that you have clear understanding of basic elements of Christianity. Those can end up being a really long discussion (like Trinity or prophecy), so perhaps we can get to that in the future. For today, I just want to ask: do you know why, according to the Bible, Jesus had to die by crucifixion?

• Abdul Haruj
For the sins of mankind?
not that I clearly understand that reason

• Hector Salamanca
You are basically right. We believe that sin has separated all of us from God. That is why He does not speak directly to us with His voice like He did at creation. We are cursed and dishonored because of evil desires in our hearts, we became enemies against Him by making many religions and starting wars and because of it we all die - those are just evidences of our confusion and alienation.
God took on human flesh - Jesus came to us, the only one of us to live a perfect life. He was innocent completely in all his thoughts, words, and deeds. He gave up his perfect life for all our dishonored lives to remove the curse of sin and restore our honor. By this God demonstrated the extent of His love and His perfection.
Crucifixion was a Roman form of punishment reserved only for rebels. It showed how much people hated Jesus - they did not want just death, they wanted the worst possible death for an innocent person. In this, people showed the great darkness of their hearts - they hated God who came to be their prophet, their priest, and their king. Crucifixion shows the contrast between our darkness and God’s light, our hate and His love. When Jesus came back to life after 3 days, he did not kill his attackers - he forgave them. By this he showed his power over death and that he will be merciful and forgiving to all who believe in him. Crucifixion is the reason why we can know for sure that we are forgiven by God and restored to honor if we follow Him.

• Hector Salamanca
Does this make sense?

• Abdul Haruj
Sorry, I kept you hanging. I apologize. I just have my mind full with something else at the moment and lost my appetite for discussing religion. I’ll get back to you eventually though, don’t worry, and I really appreciate your will to help me understand better about Christianity.

• Hector Salamanca
Sure thing! Do you mind if I share the conversation we had with some friends of mine? I will remove your name. Some of my friends need to know that it is possible to be respectful and civil when talking to people who live far away. :-)

• Abdul Haruj
Yea, no problem :-)