Christianity and Islam: Two Worldviews and Why They Matter
Recently, the Arab League reported that “nearly one-third of Arabs are illiterate, including half of Arab women.” The report also points out that “it’s not just the older generation: Three quarters of the 100 million illiterate people in 21 Arab countries are between the ages of 15 and 45.”
By contrast, 99 percent of Americans 15 years and older are literate, according to the latest government figures. Western nations have for centuries had the most literate populations and literacy rates in the US have been among the highest in the world going back as far as the 1600s when it was estimated that “the literacy rate for men in Massachusetts and Connecticut was somewhere between 89 and 95 percent…” And for “women in those colonies it is estimated to have run as high as 62 percent in the years 1681 – 1697.” (Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, 1985)
Where Christianity spreads, literacy inevitably follows. A Ugandan university study published in 2007 reveals that while “Arab Muslims were the first to introduce written information (texts) in Uganda, they did not make any effort to teach reading and writing… Literacy in the Roman alphabet was introduced into Uganda by Christian missionaries in the late 19th century.” The report goes on to add that within contemporary Ugandan culture, “Christianity provides the impetus for local literacy practices…”
Another study by the Organization of the Islamic Conference on the status of scientific research in its 57 member states reveals a similar shortcoming in the area of scientific accomplishment.
Of the more than 11.5 million scientific papers published worldwide each year; Muslim countries contribute just 2.5 percent. There are more than 1.5 billion Muslims living across the Islamic world — about a quarter of the world's population — and yet they have generated barely more than one percent of the world’s scientific literature and produced only two scientific Nobel Prize winners.
The Islamic approach to healthcare is still largely based on the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. These sayings, in which Muhammad gave his opinions on medical practices, formed the basis for a distinctive and inadequate medical system from the ninth century onward.
There are simply no scientific innovations emerging out of the Islamic world: no space program, no hi-tech developments, no medical breakthroughs—nothing! Islam cannot provide an adequate basis for science because Islam does not embrace the notion that the universe runs along fundamental principles or laws laid down at creation. Allah—unlike the God of Scripture who is both personal and rational—is impersonal and his intrusion upon the world is arbitrary.
In Christianity, God acts upon nature and the world in ways consistent with His special (Scripture) and natural (creation) revelation. In other words, the God of Scripture is a God of order who created according to laws that are universal and thus men could discern these laws and by theorizing based on these fixed laws, gain a greater understanding of creation. This served as the basis of Western science and its preeminence.
Economically, the Islamic world fares no better. In fact, the Gross Domestic product (GDP) of all Arab countries combined stood at just $1.2 trillion in 2005 – less than that of Spain. This pales in comparison to the U.S. GDP of more than $13 trillion! Unemployment among Arab nations, which hovers around 15 percent, is the highest in the world. The source of what little wealth the Arab world does generate is primarily due to oil, which without Western intervention would have remained an unrealized natural resource.
In the Christian West, it was the biblical principles of personal responsibility, thrift and reinvestment of profits that gave rise to free-market capitalism. This coupled with a moral vision that led people to restrain their material consumption while vigorously seeking wealth, produced the most productive economies in all of human history.
On the matter of justice, this hardly bears examination as Islamic justice is nearly an oxymoron. There is no presumption of innocence and the burden of proof does not rest with the state. This is a culture in which a woman who is the victim of rape will likely find herself executed or whipped and fathers can murder their children for associating with infidels—so called “honor killings.” Of the 48 countries with a full or near Muslim majority, none has yet evolved a stable, democratic political system.
Hisham Sharabi, the noted Palestinian-born scholar of Georgetown University writes that the Arab world is for the most part “a culturally and politically desolate and oppressive place in which to live and to work . . . a difficult place in which to struggle to build a decent and humane society.” Clearly the Islamic worldview fails to correspond with reality at every point, producing less than adequate results in every standard by which we measure personal, social, and economic well-being.
Conversely, Christianity is more than mere religion; it is the true interpretation of reality in which individuals and societies alike fare better in every category when they live consistent with biblical truth. Rodney Stark points out in his insightful book, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success, “While other religions emphasized mystery and intuition, Christianity alone embraced reason and logic as the primary guide to religious truth.” This emphasis on “reason and logic” naturally flows from a rational God who has revealed Himself through both the written word and an orderly creation. These combine to provide a rational theology that through reason men are able to apprehend and apply to every aspect of life and culture producing humane and successful societies.
So, why does this matter? Because for one, roughly one-fifth of the world’s population suffers under the oppressive yoke of Islam and two, there are many who are determined to spread Islam at any cost until the entire world comes under its destructive control.
For American Christians, the response is simple. The Lord in His providence has brought somewhere between 6 and 10 million (exact numbers are unavailable) Muslims to our shores. Thus the Muslim is now our neighbor and we are to love our neighbors. This means we endeavor to create real and meaningful relationships with those Muslims the Lord has very intentionally brought into our lives for it is ultimately the love of Christ that will overcome the tyranny of Islam.© 2008 by S. Michael Craven
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S. Michael Craven is the founder and President of the Center for Christ & Culture. The Center for Christ & Culture is dedicated to renewal within the Church and works to equip Christians with an intelligent and thoroughly Christian approach to matters of culture in order to recapture and demonstrate the relevance of Christianity to all of life. For more information on the Center for Christ & Culture, additional resources and other works by S. Michael Craven visit: www.battlefortruth.org
Michael lives in the Dallas area with his wife Carol and their three children.