Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!
Forgiveness in Islam and Christianity
James White’s book, What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an is a work of scholarship and insight which provides much to think about in regards to Christianity and Islam. One passage I found particularly interesting was the contrast between the Christian view of forgiveness and that of Islam. White relates a story from the hadith (Sahih Al-Bukhari, 4:676) in which a man who has murdered many seeks forgiveness. Ultimately, Allah changes the very geography of the earth in order to forgive the man. But what this story (and some other instances White relates) teaches about forgiveness is what makes it interesting:
Here Allah not only forgives the man of horrendous sin but also does so without the slightest reference to the fulfillment of the divine law against murder. The key issue is not God’s mercy or even God’s desire to forgive. The issue is how forgiveness can be obtained without violating His holiness and justice. From the perspective of this hadith, forgiveness flows not from God’s actions in providing a basis for salvation, but from His power alone. (158, cited below)
The distinction White discusses here is crucial. The basis for forgiveness in Christianity flows along with God’s holiness and justice: God provides for justice through the atonement provided by Christ. In Islam, however, Allah may choose to forgive whomever, whenever, merely because Allah is all-powerful–and this in the radical sense that Allah may do whatever Allah wishes, even violate divine law against murder and the like without any intercession and mediation.
It seems to me that this provides another reason to think of the reasonableness of Christianity: it provides a basis for God’s forgiveness apart from mere divine fiat.
What do you think? How important is this distinction? Does James White accurately portray this difference?
Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)
James White, What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2013).