Because the Koran does not teach the doctrine of original sin, the Islamic view of sin is not alarming. To counteract a rather casual understanding of sin, the Christian must teach what Jesus said about sin in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus taught that breaking the spirit of the Law is just as serious, if not more so, than violating the letter of the Law. God has written His law in nature, and in the hearts of men, which individuals have to suppress in order to be able to live with their own conscience.
Because Islam does not view sin as a radical problem, it is not surprising that salvation is not viewed as a radical issue. The Muslim believes that salvation is based on good works which will, in the Day of Judgment, be weighted in a scale of balances, which can be tipped for reward, or judgment.
Sura 23:102 And those whose scales are heavy [with good deeds] – it is they who are the successful. 103 But those whose scales are light – those are the ones who have lost their souls, [being] in Hell, abiding eternally.
The Muslim that believes in Allah, has done many good deeds, and lived a life of righteousness, can hope to obtain salvation. In Islam, man is not a fallen creature in need of salvation, but is a noble being, a vice-regent of Allah. Man is a perfect creature, perfectly endowed to fulfill the Divine will, while being enhanced with revelation. Because he was created in the image of God, man is a perfect, innocent, and moral master of creation. Man is to fulfill the will of Allah in space and time. Man is not an object of salvation, but a subject. The Islamic religion is confident that man is morally, and essentially good, and that he is competent to obey God and fulfill the will of God.
Despite this high view of self, Islam does not offer any assurance of salvation, only an eternal hope based upon one’s own self-esteem, and a self-evaluation of one’s life. Many Muslims who have converted to Christ, have done so because of the assurance of salvation the Christian faith offers to all those who believe in Jesus as personal Saviour.
Islam believes that Christianity emasculates men, by making individuals weak creatures that are helpless, hopeless, and in need of a Saviour. Islam tells individuals they are not helpless, they are not hopeless, they can stand on their own, and take personal responsibility.
Islam is in harmony with much of the thinking of modern day philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), who taught that the “soft underbelly” of Western society was a direct result of the elevation of Christian virtues such as grace and mercy, as opposed to strength and courage. Christianity is for the weak.
It is good to ask the Muslim who believes in Paradise and Hell, what are they being saved from, since they are basically good people. A Muslim might respond that they do believe in being saved, or rescued, from Hell. An honest Muslim, who is informed about the Koran, might even say that it is Allah who determines the destiny of an individual. Allah will determine the destiny of a person based on the weighing on a scale of justice, and their good works.
Now, because there is a scale of justice, in Islam, there must be a standard to go by. In Islam, what is required to meet this standard is a declaration of faith in Allah, and his prophet Mohammed, obligatory prayer, compulsory giving, fasting in the month of Ramadan, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
However, the practical problem is this. “What person could ever survive the perfect judgment of a perfect God, no matter how good they have tried to be?” The Psalmist asked, “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
Herein is the problem with the Islamic view of salvation. A Muslim can never know until the Day of Judgment if the scales of judgment will tip in their favor. The Christian doctrine is that the scales of justice will never tip in favor of a person’s own righteousness. Like Nebuchadnezzar, every person is weighed in the balances and found wanting. (Daniel 5:27)Every person who is saved must be clothed in the righteousness of another, even Jesus Christ the Lord. The work of Christ at Calvary must be imputed, or charged to a person’s account, so that in the Day of Judgment the sinner can be declared righteous in the sight of the Law of God. It is “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” (Titus 3:5)
To the Muslim, the Christian cries out, “Do not believe in your own essential goodness. There is no one who is good in the sight of God, for all have sinned and sin has built a barrier between man and God. Christ has died to tear down that barrier between man and God which is why His work of redemption must be embraced as your own. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. Only then can you have any hope and confidence of eternal life. Eternal life is a gift of God, not something that is earned, and therefore merited. Flee from the false hope of salvation based on the five pillars of Islam, and rest on the one sure foundation, Jesus Christ and His righteousness. The just shall live by faith, not by merit.
Ironically, the Koran has passages which teach how grateful men are, how easily led astray they can be, and how often they transgress, and do bad things. So, there is a conflicting message in Koran between the rhetoric and the reality, and between various Sura passages. Islamic theologians simply ignore the intrinsic contradictions. The same tension is found in Christianity, whereby many theologians ignore the seriousness of sin.
Both Christians and Muslim must relearn some basic truths about sin. Sin, in the sight of God, is not merely doing the “big” sins of murder, lying cheating, stealing, and blasphemy. Sin, in the sight of God, is the transgression of the Law.
Once the Law is broken, in any form, no matter how minor a person might think the transgression, then the perfection which God demands of men is gone and can never be recovered. To live a life of virtue after a transgression is only what duty requires, it cannot cover or heal any past transgression.
It is this deep, and mature understanding of the nature of sin, which is not comprehended by Muslims, or many Christians. As a result, individuals feel smug, and self-righteous because they have stopped doing something which is wrong, or they have worked extra hard to be better. It is all to no avail. “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”
Only when a person is in Christ, can the Great Commandment be complied with. What is the Great Commandment? “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deut. 6:5)
No one can ever love God with all their heart, which is why sin is so serious, and which is why a Saviour is needed. Every sinful soul needs someone to rescue the soul from the penalty of sin, which is Hell. Self cannot rescue self by good works. It is imposable. The standard cannot be reduced to a level of personal achievement. God is perfect, and demands that men be perfect. This divine mandate can only be achieved by the righteousness of Christ being charged to the account to those who are the heirs of salvation.
Only in Christ can a person find forgiveness of sin, with assurance that the blood of Jesus Christ will cleans from all sin, past, presence, and future. Christians are commanded to make our election and salvation sure. This can only be done by embracing the promise of God in Christ.
If, in the providence of God, a Muslim comes across this Blog, or if this material can be shared with a Muslim, let the word go forth, “God receiveth sinful men, even me, with all my sin.” Come to Christ, because you take sin seriously.