Reposted permission, from The Cripple Gate.
Almost every system or religion proposes some sort of love. From systems in the east to the west, they feature some concept of love. Both the Qur’an and the Bible do so. They both teach that God is loving. But, what do they mean by love? And, what is it about the God of the Qur’an and the God of the Bible that renders them loving? Most assertions of love remain in realm of abstract or human-to-human benevolence. How can we tangibly measure love?
Today’s post is our sixth and final part of a series studying various differences between the sacred book of Islam, the Qur’an, and that of the Christianity, the Bible. In part one, we looked at a brief introduction to Quranic Islam, observing the development of the Quranic text. In part two, we noted the major differences between the God of the Qur’an and that of the Bible. Third, we studied nine differences between the Jesus of the Qur’an and the Bible. In part four, we observed the differences between the doctrine of salvation in the Qur’an and the Bible, noticing that the Qur’an teaches a works-based righteousness. Part five covered the difference between the integrity of the Qur’an and the Bible, noting a catastrophic conundrum for Quranic Islam. Finally, we examine the differences between the love of the God of the Bible and that of the Qur’an.
When matched against one another verse-by-verse, there is a gaping difference between the love of the God of the Qur’an and the God of the Bible. For example, there is is nothing like Romans 8 in the Qur’an, and thus no enthusiastic sovereign assurance of love from eternity past through eternity future. There is no John 10 in the Qur’an, and thus no stunning statements of a life-giving, sacrificial love of God. There is no Psalm 23 in the Qur’an, because the God of the Qur’an is not said to be an ever-present, loving Shepherd-leader. There is no Isaiah 54:5-8 or Ephesians 5:25, and thus no likening God’s love to that of a perfect and passionate husband. There is no Psalm 62, 34, or, 37. There is no John 3:16-21, Romans 5:8, nor a Revelation 21:6-7. We could go on.
The God of the Qur’an is said to love, and not love, certain type of people. For example, he loves Moses (Surah 20:39), those who do good (Surah 2:195, ,3:134, 3:148, 5:14, 5:96), those who are pure and clean (Surah 2:222, 9:108), those who are righteous (Surah 3:76, 9:4, 9:7, 19:96), those who judge with equity (Surah 5:45, 49:9, 60:8), those who trust him (Surah 3:159), those who are steadfast (Surah 3:146), those who follow Muhammad (Surah 3:31), and he loves those who fight in his cause (Surah 61:4). But this is a conditional love based upon the merit of the recipient, and not a sovereign-grace based love as that of the God of the Bible.
As it pertains to the love of God, the greatest difference between the Qur’an and the Bible comes down to the death of Christ for our sin. Christ’s finished work on the cross sets the love of the Bible in an entirely different category. One verse will be sufficient to observe the great gulf that lies between the love of God in Christ and all other love.
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).
Love in Christianity is not first about something that man does: “not that we loved God, but that He loved us.” When most systems speak of love, they go no farther than commands of external benevolence towards others. But the love of the Bible centers first in God’s love towards humanity. And there’s more.
- God’s love is tangible, historic, and sacrificial. It is tangible: God sent his Son. A Person came and was given.
- God’s love is historic: men and women observed the giving and sending of the Son. It happened in plain sight.
- God’s love is sacrificial: he sent his Son to be the propitiation.
We can talk about differences between the Qur’an and the Bible as it pertains to textual integrity and such things, but herein lies one of the great chasms between Islam and Christianity; propitiation. First John says that God loved us in this terrible and wonderful thing called propitiation.
Propitiation means to appease wrath. Biblically, it refers to the just placating of God’s righteous wrath due sinners for their offenses against him. Of all words in the Christian faith, we must understand the terror and wonder of propitiation. If we fail to understand propitiation, we fail to understand the single greatest love in the universe.
As we plunge ourselves into the concept of propitiation, we will understand the love that separates the God of the Bible from that of the God of the Qur’an. Surah 4:157 reads:
And for their saying, “We have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the Messenger of God.” In fact, they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them as if they did. Indeed, those who differ about him are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it, except the following of assumptions. Certainly, they did not kill him.
Quranic Muslims quote Surah 4:157, scratch their head at times and ask, “How could God allow Jesus the prophet to go through such a terrible end as crucifixion? It is unthinkable.” Biblical Christians respond, “Love.” This is God’s love. God loved us by sending his Son to be our propitiation.
God is a holy God. He loathes sin with righteous anger. And he must loathe sin because he is good; not relatively good, but absolutely good. God’s holiness is a blazing holiness. We ask our Muslim friends, “Have you sinned? Have you ever thought a wrong thought? Been motivated by a wrong motivation? Have your motives always and only been for the glory, honor, and applause of God?”
One impure thought incites God’s wrath. Your motives stir up God’s anger. All and any sin incites God’s anger
Even more, we ask, “Did you have to be taught how to sin?” When your two-year old chucks his Cheetos at you, did you have to teach him that? Did you teach him to say, “NO!” and to scale the cupboards and hijack the cookie jar?
Doing wrong is natural to us because our nature is wrong. And so, even our nature incites God’s wrath.
What are we to do? Can we simply be forgiven? The God of the Qur’an is said to be “all-forgiving, most merciful” (Surah 24:22). On the surface this seems loving. But it is not only lacking, but a fictitious forgiveness because it is a forgiveness without propitiation. If God is holy and just, then the only way to forgive is by propitiation through a righteous substitute.
Imagine a thief, rapist, and murder brought before a judge and he says, “Well, you’re all forgiven because I am all-forgiving and most merciful.” This would be an extraordinarily wicked judge. He releases the wicked apart from justice. Notwithstanding his claims to be all-forgiving and most merciful, he’s as bad as the criminals. But if that judge brought in a righteous substitute to receive the just sentence for each of those criminals, then the judge would uphold the law by forgiving justly.
To be sure, the God of the Bible is all-forgiving and most merciful. He forgives and forgives and forgives because he is loving. But how? How can a God of blazing holiness forgive even one monstrously depraved rebel like a human? Propitiation. Propitiation gives wheels and movement to the sovereign love of God. There can be a love from God in common grace towards his enemies (cf. Matt. 5:44-47), but propitiation-rendering forgiveness sends love to a jaw-dropping magnitude.
Moved for his own glory and compassion on hell-deserving sinners, God the Father sent God the Son to live under the law, that he might become a wrath-bearing sacrifice for the beloved of God. Christ lived in such a way that every motive, every thought, every desire, and every action rendered God the honor, worship, and glory he is due. Jesus thus never needed forgiveness. Then, he went to the cross to make forgiveness actual for those who desperately need it. At the cross, the crushing justice of God’s wrath thundered upon his impeccable Son. That for which the unrighteous are forgiven crushes the righteous Son, that the unrighteous become righteous. God demonstrates love by propitiation. Propitiation is what distinguishes God from all others. The cross renders the love of the God of the Bible incomparable.
When we speak to Muslims, we must speak of the tangible and terrible love of God in propitiation through the finished work of Christ. For a deity to be deity—truly deity in holiness, righteousness, and love—he must love in propitiation, or he cannot love at all.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39)