Sunday, March 9, 2008

Evil and Sin

Islam and Christianity both agree that the first sin of man was Adam and Eve's eating of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. In Christianity, it is believed that this sin is then inherited through all future generations. Thus, when a baby is first born, he or she is born in sin. No man is without sin for any period and only through belief in Jesus and forgiveness through his sacrifice can one be saved.

Islam, on the other hand, does not believe that the Original Sin is passed on, but rather, children are born pure in a state of Islam and only with time do they go astray. This is definitely a happier outlook as you don't have the question of what happens to all the babies who died soon after birth before baptism. Most every Christian would like to think that a compassionate God would forgive them of the sin that was committed generations upon generations ago by their very first ancestor but there's a reason most congregations baptize as early as practical (excluding, of course, congregations like Baptists that perform baptisms much later in a child's life).

Supposing that Islam is correct and children are born devoid of sin, sin would enter one's life later through the willful breaking of God's commandments. Again, this seems like a much fairer assumption and I like to think that God is fair.

Let's play a little thought experiment for fun. Would a child born free of sin and raised in an environment free of sin then remain sinless? Suppose the child, immediately after birth, were stuck on a deserted island where he or she is fed and cared for by machines and never had any contact with other humans. Would that child, free from the influence of sinful humans, remain sinless?

I conjecture that the child, although possibly grown by this point, would still eventually sin even without the influence of sinful humans. I believe that sinful urges and desires would still take their toll; that they are not learned from others. However, I'm not going so far as to say that the child was born with the seed of sin implanted, waiting to sprout. That could be the case, as Christianity might state, or it could be that, even without the outside influence of other humans, the child is still vulnerable to the outside influence of Satan. Just as Adam and Eve were originally free from sin but still gave in to Satan's tempting whispers, our hypothetical child would be the same.

I have to admit that I like the Muslim belief better; I like the idea that children are born pure and free of the sins of their ancestors. However, as always, religion and truth aren't necessarily what's easiest or nicest.

What made me write about this subject is that I'm currently reading A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue by Badru D. Kateregga and David W. Shenk and I recently read the chapter on sin. That got me thinking a little bit about the differences in belief about sin between Christianity and Islam. I'm not far enough into the book to really review it but so far it's pretty informative, interesting, and fair.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Comfort in Islam

This has been a particularly hard week for me because of some bad events that occurred to a close friend of mine. Thus, I naturally sought comfort in my faith and God. I tried reading through random surahs in the Quran. When seeking comfort with the Bible, my random page selections would, more often than not, yield something that spoke to me and addressed whatever needs and concerns I had. However, I can't say that my random Quranic selections were terribly applicable.

I read at least six surahs and they all seemed to have a similar message, the evil will ultimately be punished and the good will be rewarded. However, although that offers some comfort in the long-term, little immediate comfort was offered. I think it all goes back to my previous observation of Islam being a religion of the mind versus Christianity being a religion of the heart. Islam seems to focus on God's mercy whereas Christianity focuses on God's love. Luckily, even though my reading wasn't very fruitful, my prayers are always able to focus on whatever aspect of God I need at the moment.

Of course, it wasn't very helpful that the khutbah at jumuah today was rather depressing also, focusing on the current situation in Gaza. I went in hoping for something uplifting and instead was just further depressed.