Christianity and Islam: What American Christians need to know about Muslims

The “Right to Exist” – Christian and Muslim Perspectives

After last week’s post, my good friend Skip Schwarz, a Baptist minister and retired ski chaplain, sent me a long email, raising questions about my explanation about how Muslims look at the situation in Israel. Over the next several weeks I will say more how Muslims might see things, and suggest how Christians should respond.

First and foremost, Rev. Schwarz pointed out that since 1948 much of the Muslim world, the Arab states and Palestine in particular, has refused to acknowledge Israel’s “right to exist.” This certainly sounds extreme. But in 2017 we need to think through things before we repeat accusations.

In my last post, I explained that Islam traditionally teaches that God gave Israel to the Muslims around 637 A.D. God’S decision cannot be changed just because Jewish people moved into the area in the 20th century, or because Britain helped to create a political entity called “Israel.” Therefore, from a traditional Muslim perspective, Muslims MUST deny Israel’s right to exist. Otherwise, Muslims are proclaiming something contrary to the will of God.

So we should expect that there will always be Muslims who oppose the existence of Israel. However, once we understand traditional Islamic teaching, Christians should recognize applaud Muslims who affirm Israel’s existence. And the fact is that most Muslims, even most Palestinians, do now affirm Israel’s right to exist.

One piece of evidence for this is the recent UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which acknowledges a vision for a democratic Israel existing alongside a democratic Palestine. Every nation which voted for this resolution – including all the Islamic nations – thus affirms in writing, publicly, Israel’s right to exist. Christians may certainly question the resolution and/ or its purpose and effects, but followers of Christ MUST be fair, and so acknowledge that the resolution itself clearly states that Israel should exist (this is a basic component of the “Quartet Roadmap”).

We Christians must also carefully apply Matthew 7:1-5, which advises that we will be judged according to our way of judging others. So if we insist that the state of Israel must exist, then we must also affirm the right of Palestinians to have a state of their own, as per the resolution. Unfortunately, many Christians passionately argue that Palestine does not have the right to exist.

For example, read what Tim LaHaye, author of the Left Behind series, had to say in his 2011 book, Are We in the End Times?

“The unconditional promise of the land of Israel to the Jewish people is spelled out in Deuteronomy 30:1-10. The covenants of God cannot be broken and must therefore be viewed as being irrevocable (see Romans 11:29). There can be no legitimate claim to the land of Israel by any other people.”

And a few paragraphs later…

“The United States may very well find itself on the receiving end of God’s wrath should it continue in its policies that aim to negotiate the division of Israel’s land in a vain attempt to establish peace with its enemies.”

So, for LaHaye, the 6.5 million Palestinians in Israel and Palestine are out of luck. Palestine does NOT have the right to exist.  Either they surrender all of their land peacefully, or take on the label of “enemies” of Israel.

By his death last year, LaHaye had sold more than 120 million copies of his books, so its safe to say that he has a significant following. And his view on Israel and Palestine is not unusual in Evangelical circles. Therefore, when we criticize Muslims for denying the right of Israel to exist, we must ask ourselves: do Christians accept the right of Palestine to exist?

Personally, while I strongly disagree with the way LaHaye interprets Deuteronomy 30, I respect his position that Palestine does not have the “right to exist.” (The right of a country to “exist” does not appear in the Bible, or in any law code that I know of.) However, any Christian who denies Palestine’s “right to exist” must support some means for giving justice to Palestinians who have lost their land because of the creation of the State of Israel. True followers of Christ must passionately pursue justice for everyone, not just Christians and Jews.

The creation of democratic states of Israel and Palestine side by side is not a perfect solution. Among other things, this goes against the beliefs of many Muslims, Christians, and Jews. But it is a serious attempt at granting some justice to Palestinians, while giving Jewish people a safe, secure state of their own. I’m certainly open to other solutions, but I am not open to rejecting the two-state solution, without offering a serious alternative.

Most Muslims have affirmed Israel’s right to exist – publicly, in writing.  Do we Christians accept the right of Palestine to exist?  If not, we should think hard about Matthew 7 before we criticize Muslims.


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This entry was posted on January 8, 2017 by .
The Text in Context

Helping modern readers engage with ancient biblical texts

Mark Biddle

Mostly on the Bible

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