There are many examples that could be quoted of so-called Christian teaching having little or no basis in scripture, or where accepted religious practice directly contradicts it.
Perhaps the most glaring example is found in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is promoting the value of his followers trusting God. He says: ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.’
And crucially he adds: ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’
Now you might know of a Christian leader or opinion former who observes that unequivocal instruction, but I have never met one.
We can be very selective. Another example: some sects love to repeat Paul’s injunction: ‘Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as to the Lord’ without any reference to the previous verse: ‘Submit to one another in the fear of the Lord’, or to the following verse that calls husbands to ‘love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her’.
Can a husband love his wife as much as Christ loves the church? I think not, and yet these men demand that their women folk sit quietly at the back of the hall in quiet submission.
The Christian church is not alone in being selective. Islam means peace, and in general Islam is just that, a religion of peace, but we do not need to be reminded that there are elements within that faith that are far from peaceful. And so the militant Islamics have wandered as far from the teaching of the Prophet Mohammed as many Christians have wandered from the teachings of Jesus.
Would their prophet approve of the violence we saw in Paris recently? How would he view the wickedness and anti-Christian behaviour that is a daily occurrence in Nigeria? Some 1400 years ago, Christian monks at St Catherine’s Monastery of Sinai wrote to the Prophet Muhammad, asking what their status would be under his rule. Muhammad responded with a letter that survives to this day. Here is an extract:‘As a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far; we are with you. Verily I, my servants, my helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. The Muslims are to fight for them. Their churches are to be respected. No one of the Muslims is to disobey this covenant until the Last Day.’
So, why the contradiction? Who knows? My best guess is that it is a human weakness to believe what we have always believed for no reason other than we have always believed it. As Dutch author Hendrik Willem van Loon once said: ‘Any formal attack on ignorance is bound to fail because the masses are always ready to defend their most precious possession – their ignorance.’
May God help us.
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