Category Archives: Religion & Spirituality

What Makes For A Peaceful Religion?

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What makes for a peaceful religion?

Is a religion peaceful because the majority of its adherents believe in the idea of peace and being peaceful? Is it peaceful if you can find some peaceful verses in the religion’s sacred text or its other revered writings?

What about if the religion contains violence in its holy book? Does it cease to be peaceful? What if a group of its followers are committing or once committed violence in the name of God sometime in its history? What then?

Does that make it inherently violent?

My primary point in this article is not to try and make a case that Islam is not peaceful. I do not believe all Muslims are terrorists or violent extremists. On the contrary, most Muslims are peaceful, as are the majority of Christians. This should be obvious to every sensible person.

Instead, I would like us to reflect on the real source of religious belief and practice within Christianity, renewing our commitment to the Prince of Peace.

The source is how you determine if the religion is truly peaceful.

While I do want us to think about the real source of Islamic faith, and whether or not Muhammad clearly and consistently exemplified a peaceful religion, my aim with this article is to help both conservative and progressive Christians avoid the current cultural extremes in being followers of Christ and bearers of the truth who are called to love their Muslim neighbors.

I submit that we do not need to fear Muslims, nor should we pretend that Jesus and Muhammad are the same. They are not. Therefore, I want to encourage Christians not to echo politically correct tripe or gloss over the truth about our differences, feeling that we must do this in order to best love Muslims.

So, what makes for a peaceful religion?

I’d like to briefly address this question by first applying it to my own faith. Is Christianity a peaceful religion? How do I answer that question? How do you? And then I’d like us to think about how it should equally apply to Islam.

Finally, I’ll end with some ways I think Christians should respond in light of the conclusions I’ve drawn. Please keep in mind that this post is a brief reflection of my own personal study and current thinking on the subject.

The Prince of Peace

What is the source of the Christian religion?

If you say “the Bible” then it’s possible that you might not agree with what I’m about to say. Yes, I believe in the inspiration and the authority of the Bible, but I do so because of and in the way of Christ–the Word made flesh (Jn 1:1-14).

Let’s be clear. The source of the Christian faith is Christ himself.

That is why we call ourselves “Christ-ians” or followers of Christ. We love the Scriptures because they point the way to Christ, but we’re not following a book, we’re following Jesus. As I’ve said before, the highest view of the Scriptures is not the one that seeks to make an idol of the Bible (biblicism), but the one that allows the biblical text to exalt Christ as the living Word over all creation.

The Word became flesh. He lived, died, and was resurrected.

So, our enemies can spit on or even burn our book, but it doesn’t incite us to do violence. Yeah, it may hurt our feelings a bit, but the One we worship is alive and seated at the right hand of the Father. You can scoff at his name, but you can’t kill him anymore. He has risen and will raise all those who accept him and follow him as the resurrection and the life (Jn 11:25).

This Messiah we worship is the Prince of Peace who taught us to love our enemies and never use violence (Matt 5:38-48) Why? It’s not just because violence begets violence, but because that is what God is really like. The NT is clear that Jesus is the exact representation of his being (Heb 1:1-3).

I don’t believe in peace and praying for my enemies because I think it’s a good idea, or because it is the liberal or progressive-hipster thing to do these days. I believe it because Jesus told me if I want to follow him I must take up my cross and walk his road (Lk 9:23). It doesn’t need to make sense to me, nor does it need to be popular or politically correct. I obey because Jesus said so.

Our King and his Kingdom win by dying, not by killing.

So I don’t try to save my life by proof-texting Jesus in some pathetic attempt to justify violence, or even violent self-defense. When Jesus disarmed Peter with his rebuke to put away his sword, he disarmed me and every other Christian that professes “Jesus is Lord” (Rom 10:9), i.e. Caesar and the NRA are not.

Taking up your cross means first putting down the sword.

But what about the violence in the Old Testament? That’s usually where people go when they want to justify “Christian” nationalism and violence, or an atheist wants to be critical of the Bible. Didn’t God command violence in the OT?

If you’re interested, I’ve written about my views of the Scriptures and how I understand what is going on in the OT in a post called How I View Christ & the Scriptures. But the short of it is this… that was then, this is now.

Disciples of Jesus have been given a new covenant (testament) through his broken body and shed blood on the cross–the ultimate instrument of violence. The old has gone, the new has come. There is a clear division in our Bible so we don’t miss this. Yet some still fail to see the real significance of Christ’s coming.

The death of Jesus brought an end to belief in a tribal warrior God.

Violence in the OT is bound by its historical context within the narrative of Israel. There are no commands to do violence or promote it within the words of Jesus. On the contrary, we have a peaceful Jesus consistently showing us and telling us to do good to those who hate us. True sheep listen to the Shepherd.

If you accept that Jesus is what God looks like and has always looked like, then it not only requires that you read the OT with that in view, but it means that you also accept that any violence done after Jesus (which started about 200 years after Christ with the emperor Constantine) is in direct violation to the life and teachings of Jesus–the source of the Christian religion.

If you want to know if a religion is peaceful, you look to its leader. When it comes to Christ, the leader of the church, there is no shifting of his person or exceptions in his call to peace. None whatsoever.

He is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb 13:8).

Jesus was peaceful. Therefore, true Christianity will always look like Jesus.

The Cross & the Crescent

So, what about Muhammad & the Quran? Is Islam peaceful?

I readily acknowledge that the majority of Muslims are peaceful people, but what about Muhammad? Can we say with confidence that Muhammad was a man of peace? If the leader and prophet Muhammad was not a peaceful person, what does this say about Islam? Can peaceful Muslims trust a violent Muhammad? This is an honest question for the honest person.

And it is a key point of civil conversation when evangelizing Muslims.

If the leader called for both peace and violence, which is clearly the case in the Quran and in Islamic history, who gets to speak for Islam? If Muhammad is the prophet and final revelation of Allah, on what grounds and on whose authority does one get to say at the heart of Islamic doctrine is a peaceful religion?

I have read the Quran. Have you? If you haven’t, you should.

A major difference between the New Testament and the Quran is that the NT is written from multiple authors within a few decades of each other. Jesus didn’t pen a single word, but instead the apostles, inspired by the Holy Spirit, tell us about Jesus and invite us to accept him and follow his teachings.

The Quran on the other hand comes entirely in Arabic from Muhammad as dictated by the angel Gabriel over a period of 23 years, from Islam’s peaceful beginnings in Mecca to the violent militarism of Muhammad in Medina.

There are no “Old and New Testament” divisions within the Quran, none that are obvious to the lay reader, that indicate what teachings of Allah via Muhammad are in effect. I’m no Islamic scholar, but this is definitely why we are seeing the radical differences of interpretation within Islam.

So which Muhammad is reflective of true Islam?

I don’t see how the 100+ violent verses are annulled (e.g. Suras 2:216; 8:12; 9:111). They read as standing commands, not bound by their historical context. And that is of course why Islamic terrorists are saying Muhammad’s final revelation from Allah (God) is in effect. It’s the Islam of Medina.

This is much more than a matter of “twisting” verses in the Quran.

Former terrorists and Islamic scholars have been testifying to this problem, despite the backlash of our so-called “tolerant” pluralistic culture where we are certain every religion is obviously peaceful at its core.

Could it be a combination of this glaring problem with Muhammad and the rise of ISIS that is resulting in mass conversions of Muslims to Jesus?

If God is working like never before to bring Muslims to a saving knowledge of Jesus, why would we turn away refugees out of fear? Also, how does it help when progressives overreact to anti-Muslim bigotry by saying that our theology and history of violence are pretty much the same?

Not only is it not helpful, it simply isn’t true to history or the context.

We need to be clear. This isn’t just about differences of Quranic interpretation, as if Christianity has the same problem with the Bible. It is about the historical figure of Muhammad, the source of Islam, calling for both peace and violence.

What do peaceful Muslims do with this conflicting portrait of Muhammad and his commands to do violence? I’ve yet to hear of a coherent Quranic hermeneutic of peace like the Christocentric one set forth by Jesus in the Bible.

Until then, I will love Muslims as Christ loves me, but I can’t reconcile the prophet Muhammad, a man of war bent on conquest, to a peaceful Islam.

The Christian Response

How then should followers of Jesus respond?

  1. Affirm the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ.
    Christians need to remember that the source of our faith is Christ himself. However you sort through the violence of the Old Testament, the peaceful and non-violent Jesus supersedes it as God’s final Word.
  2. Speak up and out about the true source of our faith.
    It’s time for all followers of Christ to lovingly challenge the distorted perspectives of the likes of Jerry Falwell Jr. and Franklin Graham who are shaped more by the Bill of Rights than the Jesus of the NT.
  3. Get educated and informed about the Quran.
    Buy a copy, read it, and learn about the differing perspectives of Islam. Notice its similarities and differences with your own faith. Listen to Muslims and converts to Christianity talk about the Quran.
  4. Learn about the faith of your Muslim neighbor.
    It’s easy to fear and disdain those you don’t know or understand. Seek out inroads with your Muslim neighbors. Befriend them. Invite them over for dinner or connect via social media. Jesus would and he’d like it.
  5. Lovingly rebuke anti-Muslim rhetoric from the fearful.
    Our only opinion about Muslims, peaceful or violent, should be that God loved them so much that he gave his Son for their salvation. We dare not promote or allow hateful speech/acts against those made in God’s image.
  6. Live the life that comes from the Prince of Peace.
    We live in a tumultuous time right now. Look how it presents us with opportunities to display the peace that surpasses all understanding. Be that peaceful presence. Seek to live the life God’s peace brings.
  7. Remember we do not battle against flesh and blood.
    Prayer is our warfare. Prayer shapes our worldview and enables us to love our neighbor and our enemies. Tap into the power that pushes back on spiritual evil and releases the Kingdom. And pray without ceasing.
Suggested Reading & Resources:

D.D. Flowers, 2015.

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Denouncing Judge Dredd (Sermon)

Those who follow my blog know that I’m a pastor and teacher. I don’t post many sermons on my personal blog, but I like to occasionally pass one on that I think is timely and relevant, and also remind you where you can find more of my sermons if you’re interested in subscribing.

You can subscribe at our church’s website or stream recent sermons from my Sound Cloud profile and listen regularly while you’re on the go.

Last year I delivered a message called Denouncing (Your Inner) Judge Dredd. I think about the content of this sermon often, as it is extremely relevant for us as the church today. I’m trying to live and work it out myself.

It’s common in our culture for folks to think that all judgment is bad, but the Scripture says there is a right and wrong way to judge.

In this message, I talk about that difference and how Christ wants to set us free from our tendencies to judge others. Judging others actually reveals our own emptiness. Jesus calls us to a higher way that is better for all of us.

Listen to how we are called to embrace an identity that engenders a deep love for our neighbor, and denounce our inner Judge Dredd for life in the Kingdom.

D.D. Flowers, 2015.


It’s a Christian “Walk,” Not a Sprint

Walk-SandTo put it simply: The point of being a Christian is to become like Christ, the perfect human being.

If you’ve been a follower of Jesus for any length of time you know that this process isn’t easy, and it takes much longer than any of us like. We don’t call it the Christian “walk” for nothing.

So the Christian journey is a lifetime of inching closer to Jesus. Disciples know that this can be frustrating. As Paul said, we’re not what we want to be.

“So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it” (Rom 7:14-17 NLT).

We become acutely aware of this struggle during the season of Lent, which begins today with Ash Wednesday. We are sinners in the process of becoming saints. Self-help books and positive thinking aren’t the answer.

We need a living savior to give us power over our sinful selves!

“Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 7:24-25).

In the meantime, our culture of hurried living makes this process all the more frustrating. We want results now. We fail to recognize the way of Christ is much slower than what we’ve been conditioned to find acceptable.

But folks, Jesus was and is seldom in a hurry.

In his book, An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest, Alan Fadling reminds us that Jesus was relaxed and lived life day-by-day, moment-by-moment. Jesus wasn’t in an ambitious hurry.

“After waiting thirty years to begin his ministry, his first ministry act was to follow the Spirit into forty days in the wilderness. His own brothers urged him to do some publicity if he wanted to be a public figure, but Jesus didn’t bite. He seemed frustratingly unhurried on his way to heal the synagogue official’s daughter and to visit his sick friend Lazarus, who died during Jesus’ two-day delay. His sense of timing often puzzled those around him.”

Fadling says, “The Spirit of God has been working in my heart to teach me how to move at the pace of grace rather than at my own hurried, self-driven pace.”

That’s tough to hear. I don’t know about you, but I’m a driven person. We just had about 8 inches of snow fall here in Virginia, and it has thrown off my schedule. I feel like I’m always on a race against time. I’ve got things to do! Last week it was bronchitis, now it’s winter weather slowing my roll.

It’s so easy to miss the Lord in our rush to get things done.

Believe me… I understand. Whether it is something hampering my hurry, or frustration that I’m not “walking” faster in my journey with the Lord, I too must surrender myself. While I do have control over my responses to life through my choices, there is much more that I don’t control.

But I was never meant to “control” anything outside of myself. Instead, I am meant to learn self-control through the power of a Person, Jesus Christ our Lord. It is a “fruit” of the Spirit, evidence of his life at work in us (Gal 5:22-23).

When it comes to our Christian walk, T. Austin-Sparks said:

“So it is that people find the Christian life burdensome; they long to know real victory, true deliverance and the joy of the Lord, whereas they experience the ups and downs of a constant struggle. The Christian life depicted in the New Testament seems so different from their actual experience that the Devil is never slow to pounce in with his suggestions that a life of constant victory is quite impossible, so that all their hopes are but unreal dreams. Satan wants God’s people to despair of knowing His power. But there is an altogether different life, different because it is based on the entering into something already completed in Christ; not something to be attained to but rather that which has already been accomplished. It is not a standard to be lived up to, but a Person to be lived with. It is impossible to measure the vast difference between these two kinds of life. The former is one of self effort and defeat, while the other consists in enjoying the reality of Christ the power of God” (Christ the Power of God).

I pray that we will resist our culture of hurried living that makes our souls restless, and learn to find rest in knowing that we already know the One who has the power to slow us down and enjoy the very presence of God.

We are complete in Christ. Live in his love today.

D.D. Flowers, 2015.


Morality: The Great Signpost

cs-lewis_originalDeep down human beings are aware of objective morality. It’s what ultimately convinced C.S. Lewis to leave atheism behind. It was the Moral Argument for the existence of God that led this intellectual giant of the 2oth century down the path of theism, and eventually to the divinity of Jesus.

Simply put, this classical argument states that humanity’s universal awareness of morals and values come from a moral Creator, therefore our innate sense of morality proves that God exists.

This short video from Reasonable Faith is a nice summary.

Lewis would admit that there are differences in moral codes. We can’t dispute these minor nuances. However, some differences in moral codes can be explained in terms of differences about the facts. So, he concluded from three separate logical arguments that objective morality comes from God.

In his classic work, Mere Christianity, Lewis wrote the following about his pre-conversion reasoning:

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”

Not only did Lewis believe that morality was convincing enough to close the case on the existence of God, he said the very ability to question God’s existence was itself a signpost to the Creator, a transcendent moral lawgiver.

Lewis said, “When you argue against Him you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on.”

In The Case for Christianity he elaborates on this point:

“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

So when Richard Dawkins, and other skeptics today, belligerently scoff at the idea of God based on what they perceive to be “evil” deeds done by Yahweh in the OT, they actually prove God’s very existence in their condemnation.

Why does Dawkins get to decide what is good or evil? Isn’t morality simply a by-product of human evolution and the formation of culture? Notice that Dawkins uses a moral law code set forth in Scripture to make such a judgment.

Furthermore, by condemning any “evil” thing with morals and values explicitly set forth in the Scriptures as given by God, the skeptic affirms objective morality and a moral lawgiver. Without God, good and evil are only subjective—nothing more than personal opinions and cultural perspectives.

As I heard it put once, a skeptic trying to refute theism, and Christianity more specifically, by making moral judgments afforded to them via the Scriptures, is to hop in the “Christian car” in an attempt to run it into a tree.

If this proves anything, it merely points out that there is indeed such a thing as objective morality, and that it has been indelibly imprinted on our souls by our Creator. It is the signature of God on our lives.

I agree with Lewis that an atheist or an agnostic has to embrace all sorts of illogical contradictions in order to maintain their skepticism. A world without God is definitely a world without morality.

It’s no doubt a world in which none of us would want to live.

D.D. Flowers, 2015.

Check out these related posts:

Does God Exist?
Is God Good?
In Awe of the God of Science


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