How to explain the faith to Muslims
by Carlos Ramalhete
A friend wrote (bold face) me asking me how to deal with a Muslim with whom he was debating
How do I answer the following?
Muslims base their claims to be the fullness of Revelation on some errors:
1 - They believe the message of Our Lord is not what is in the Bible, which they claim to have been falsified by the Church. It would mean that the only authoritative recite of the true "message" of Our Lord (for they believe He was a prophet, not the Savour - what strikes as odd, as they believe in the Immaculate Asumption...)is their Kuran.
2 - They believe that God is not a Father in any sense. Islam means "submission", submission to Allah. A muslim is not a son of Allah, but his servant.
3 - They hold (in open contradiction with #1 above) that Christians and jews are "People of the Book", following an incomplete Revelation. Mohammad (who even they recognise not to be in Heaven) would have taught the real thing.
Tell him that the Revelation is over, and all that should be revealed has already been. He will accept it in his own terms (that is, including their devilish book in it), but he will accept. Muslims do not believe in a Revelation that keeps happening.
Tell him also that:
1 - The Christian Faith has been transmitted orally, and supported by the Holy Scripture. It is not based on it. It will be a surprise for him, because Muslims believe Revelation is written in the Kuran and usually think that all Christians are Prots.
Hit under the hip on the subject of Oral Authority and revelation, use against him the different sects within Islam, etc. Show him, in short, that no true Faith can be based on a book because of the subjective differences in interpretation.
2 - That done, show him that the compilation of the Bible canon has indeed been done late in history (397 AD, under Pope St. Damasus I), but it would have been impossible to, as he says, destroy all older manuscripts - what has been done was determining which were inspired and which weren't.
No matter what you answer, he will say that the Koran is right and the Bible has been changed. Stick to the point that the Bible is meaningless without the Church and even now it would be impossible to destroy or alter all copies of a book, much less 1700 years ago.
The Muslim says that "the Trinitarian church felt it necessary to totally obliterate all Gospel manuscripts written before 325 AD when they officially introduced the "Trinity" to the world."
Nonsense. If it was the case, the Bible would contain the word "Trinity", and it doesn't.
Why bothering changing or destroying all manuscripts (an impossible task, BTW) and not making the most important changes?
"This is why we find such serious contradictions in even the most basic of it's teachings. For example, we are told that Saul of Tarsus (St. Paul) is the author of the majority of the books of the New Testament. He is claimed to be the author of Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians,Galatians, Ephesians, Phillippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians,1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews. We would expect such a pivotal character in the Bible and the author of the majority of the New Testament books to be able to keep his stories straight at least in such fundamental matters as how he became a Christian and was "saved." However, we can find in the Bible a sworn affidavit by Paul that he is guilty of fabrication. Sound incredible? Let us have a look:
If we read Acts 9:19-29 and Acts 26:19-21, we will find that Paul was busy persecuting the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem and dragging them from their homes to be tortured, killed or converted, when suddenly one day he decided to branch out and persecute them in Damascus. For this reason, he goes to the High Priest asking for letters sanctioning such actions in Damascus.
Why he would do this since the High Priest of Jerusalem had no authority over Damascus remains a mystery to many, however, let us continue."
1 - There was a single High Priest for all Jews, and the High Priest lived in Jerusalem (where the only temple was); there is no "High Priest of Jerusalem", but rather "The High Priest, who lived in Jerusalem".
2 - St. Paul asked for reference letters (he wanted the High Priest to vouch for his orthodoxy). It is not a matter of jurisdiction at all.
"Shortly after setting out to continue his evil work in Damascus, Paul is supposed to have "seen the Lord in the way " and accepted Christianity after being a staunch enemy of Christians and having become famous for his severe persecution of them. Barnabas (one of the apostles of Jesus) then supposedly vouched for him with the other apostles and convinced them to accept him. Paul then went with all of the apostles on a preaching campaign in and out of Jerusalem and all of Judaea preaching boldly to it's people. Paul then appointed himself the twelfth apostle of Jesus (in place of Judas who had the devil in him) as seen in his own books Romans1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:1 ..etc.."
No, not at all.
1 - Acts 1:26 shows it very clearly: St. Paul was not the substitute of Judas. He received Ordination from the Apostles (in Jerusalem) and submitted to their orders. He was an Apostle because he was a Bishop in Apostolic times who received direct Revelation from God (it is interesting to notice that he went to the Church and submitted to St. Peter; it was a true Revelation, not something Medjugorje-styled). :)
2 - All these "then", "then" have a reason: he wants you to believe that these things happened in a short period of time, but they didn't.
The Acts of the Apostles is a book that tells the History of the early Church. It is not a biography of St. Paul, and the time out he took has no reason to be mentioned there. That is why the period he spent in the desert before going after St. Peter is not mentioned between Acts 9:25 and 9:26: it had nothing to do with what was being told in the book!
"The verses mentioned are:
So what happened is that:
1 - St. Paul is persecuting Christians and doing what Muslims do when they catch one of us.
2 - He wants to go to Damascus, because he knows there are Christians there.
3 - On the road, Our Lord reveals HimSelf to St. Paul and tells him everything about the Faith.
4 - St. Paul gets to Damascus, completely blind.
5 - Our Lord tells a priest to go to St. Paul. This priest blesses him, he recovers sight, and is baptised.
6 - St. Paul starts telling everybody and his sister that Our Lord is God indeed.
7 - The Jews get really mad and decide to kill him.
8 - He runs away.
[Up to now all is written in Acts 9]
9 - He then goes to the desert outside Damascus ("Arabia") to meditate and settle everything down in his mind.
10 - He goes back to Damascus on his way to see St. Peter and get his Apostolic mission; probably he does some street-preaching there, and meets St. Barnabas.
11 - He arrives in Jerusalem, asking: "Where is the Pope, I need to see the Pope".
12 - a) He meets the Pope,
b) led by St. Barnabas (nobody else would trust him), and is probably ordained then (if he wasn't ordained in Damascus; he would nevertheless need an Apostolic Mandate, or he would be a schismatic...)
[from #9 to #12a, see Galatians 1; for #12b see Acts 9:27]
13 - He starts his bishopry preaching along with the Apostles in Jerusalem (St. Peter and St. James, who lived there - the others were starting local Churches elsewhere), just like a new Bishop usually starts as auxiliary Bishop.
14 - He gets the Apostolic mandate of going to Tarsus (in Syria), his homeland, and stablishing the Church there and in the neighbourhood.
[for #13 and #14, see both Acts 9 and Galatians 1]
There is absolutely no contradiction, just different points of view:
In Galatians, he wants to show the Galatians that he is preaching Gospel Truth he learned in a spectacular private revelation that took him some years in the desert to fully digest, but that he obviously recognises the authority of the Pope;
In Acts, St. Luke wants to tell us how St. Paul converted and started his preaching.
None of these books is a biography of St. Paul.
Carlos Ramalhete - Free copy and reproduction of the whole text, including the author's name.
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