Transformation in Christianity and Islam
One of the most often repeated ‘proofs’ about the ‘truth’ of Christianity has been the transformative power of Christ, or the way in which accepting Jesus can change our lives for the better. The New Testament mentions this quite a few times, as does the quote in the image above indicate. I’ve had close Christian friends mention this to me, I’ve had preachers speak about this to me, and I fully understand where they are coming from. It makes perfect sense to believe that believing in God should have a positive effect on one’s life, but this claim is a double-edged sword. We need to ask, in what way does Christianity transform a person that no other religion or ideology does?
I’ve met drug addicts, homosexuals, prostitutes who have reformed their lives with and without the use of religion. Yet, the Bible uses as a proof of Christianity’s truth, that accepting Christ transforms a person:
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:18.
It should stand to reason, that any religion or ideology that is able to transform a person from being in the depths of social and morals ills, to a person of proper moral conduct, would then be considered the truth alongside Christianity. If we’re going to use transformation as a measuring stick, Christianity itself does not fare so well as it offers nothing unique in that regard. The question that needs to be asked is, what is the one way in which accepting Christianity transforms a person that cannot be gained from any other ideology? By that standard, we can throw sexual immorality out of the window, along with alcoholism and drug abuse, as well as criminal and nefarious behaviour. The measuring stick suddenly becomes intangible: accepting Christianity transforms us by giving us peace with God, or by giving us a relationship with God.
However, almost all of the three major Abrahamic faiths claim to offer inner peace. Attaining inner peace is not unique to Christianity. The Qur’an says:
It is He who sent down tranquillity into the hearts of the believers that they would increase in faith along with their [present] faith. And to Allah belong the soldiers of the heavens and the earth, and ever is Allah Knowing and Wise. – Qur’an 48:4.
Thus, the Christian claim of transformation as a proof of Christianity’s truth is not only falsifiable, it is difficult to reconcile with Christianity’s beliefs. Almost all claims to transformation are judged according to the fruits that one produces:
so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God – Colossians 1:10.
When the term by fruits are used, it generally refers to the good works that one does. This is where the problem begins, Christians judge a person’s acceptance of Christ by a person’s behaviour, you can only judge someone according to the law they obey. Therefore, Christians are ultimately judging someone’s salvation based on whether they obey God’s law or not. If a person was once sexually immoral and today they are not, they consider this a proof of Christ’s transformative powers. If a person was once a drug addict, they once again use this as a proof of Christ’s transformative powers. All of these proofs rests on one’s obedience to the law!
The problem is, Christians claim they don’t have to follow the law to be saved, they are saved through the death of Christ. Yet, almost every metric they use to judge a person’s acceptance of Christ is whether they follow Church rituals (attending Church frequently), or whether they follow Biblical law (don’t steal, don’t murder, don’t perform sexual immoral acts, etc). How Christians avoid this obvious contradiction in thinking, is to claim that one does not have to follow the law of God to be saved, but when a person accepts Christ and are saved, they are inclined to follow the law of God. Such reasoning is futile because as mentioned above, both Christians and non-Christians have been known to make these same changes in their lives without converting to Christianity. Muslims who practise their faith, meet these same criteria, whether it is not partaking in drugs, praying often, giving charity, dressing modestly, or avoiding sexual immorality. If Muslims can achieve this without having a need for the ‘transformative power of Christ’, then of what use is Christianity exactly?
Interestingly, some Christian beliefs claim that a person cannot reform their lives of their own choice (volition). In Calvinism, of their 5 Points, the first is Total Depravity. Calvinist Christians believe the following:
Sin has affected all parts of man. The heart, emotions, will, mind, and body are all affected by sin. We are completely sinful. We are not as sinful as we could be, but we are completely affected by sin.
The doctrine of Total Depravity is derived from scriptures that reveal human character: Man’s heart is evil (Mark 7:21-23) and sick Jer. 17:9). Man is a slave of sin (Rom. 6:20). He does not seek for God (Rom. 3:10-12). He cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor. 2:14). He is at enmity with God (Eph. 2:15). And, is by nature a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3). The Calvinist asks the question, “In light of the scriptures that declare man’s true nature as being utterly lost and incapable, how is it possible for anyone to choose or desire God?” The answer is, “He cannot. Therefore God must predestine.”
Calvinism also maintains that because of our fallen nature we are born again not by our own will but God’s will (John 1:12-13); God grants that we believe (Phil. 1:29); faith is the work of God (John 6:28-29); God appoints people to believe (Acts 13:48); and God predestines (Eph. 1:1-11; Rom. 8:29; 9:9-23). – Calvinist Corner.
As can be read, Calvinist Christians do not believe that we have the power or means to seek out God, or to reform ourselves. In Islam, God states that we all have the ability to reform ourselves:
Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. – Qur’an 13:11.
Where does this leave us? It leaves us with two distinct understandings about the transformative power of God in a person’s life. In Christianity, while they reject the law as a means of salvation, they use the same law as a means of judging a person’s salvation (fruits). Some sects of Christianity believe that we do not have the power to seek God and to transform our lives. If you’re an alcoholic, you have no hope. If you’re a drug user, you have no hope. You are condemned to suffer because you do not have the inherent ability to want to better yourself. Whereas in Islam, the Qur’an teaches that we all have the ability to transform ourselves, to bring ourselves out of addiction and substance abuse. That we are all born with the fitrah – an innate nature that desires goodness and truth.
Christianity condemns us from the get go, we are totally depraved, born with the original sin, that man is a slave of sin. Whereas in Islam, we aren’t condemned from birth, we aren’t totally depraved, we do not have the original sin, it teaches us that we all have the ability to seek God and to seek the truth, that we can all transform ourselves from a life of sin to a life of good moral behaviour. The difference could not be more stark.
and God knows best.