Are We Inherently Good? Not So Much.

I have been writing a series about Islam to help us understand our Muslim neighbors better.  The topic of this blog comes from an email I received from a BelPres member.

A few weeks ago, he was walking through his neighborhood when he met someone from the local Mosque.  They had a nice conversation together and the gentleman from the local Mosque invited the BelPres member to join him for prayers on Fridays. Afterwards, the church member was curious about the way this new acquaintance spoke about the inherent goodness that is in everyone.  This idea came up a few times while they were talking.  He went along with it at first but when his new acquaintance brought it up a second time, the church member realized he might be on to something.  That is when he emailed me.  Do Muslims and Christians believe people are inherently good?

Muhammad taught, so most Muslims believe, that human beings are created good. Muhammad said people are born innocent and pure but we need some help so we can stay that way.  The Quran, Bible, and Torah (Muslims believe the Quran is the only true word of God) are all intended to provide divine guidance so that human beings can stay pure. In Islam, there is no such thing as a sin nature so people (like Adam and Eve) sin because they forget God’s guidance or they have a weak moment.   Therefore, people are inherently good.

Most Christians believe the exact opposite.  In Romans 5, Paul tells us sin entered the world through one man, Adam, and death came because of sin.  Grace and forgiveness come through Jesus.  The Bible tells us sin has altered our human nature so we cannot not sin – I realize that is a double negative, but it is true.  The point is, we cannot help ourselves.  There are many examples; some even involve you and me. In Romans 7, just two chapters later, Paul himself admits to being a slave to sin because he ends up doing the bad things he knows he should not do instead of doing the good things he knows he should do.  He is a mess.  At that point, Paul cries out “Who will save me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ!”

Recognizing we have a sin nature helps us understand our need for someone who can rescue us.  Someone who will pay the price for our sin.  Someone who has the authority to really forgive us.  Someone who can change, transform and make us whole and new people.  His name is Jesus!  The Christian faith is built on the foundation of God’s marvelous love and grace, specifically shown to us in Jesus.

Islam is built on the practice of submission to God (Muslim = one who submits). Practicing Muslims are deeply devoted people. The five pillars of Islam: professing there is no other God but God and Muhammad is His messenger, prayer, giving, fasting and making a once in a lifetime trip to Mecca, are the ways a Muslim demonstrates their submission. It is a religion focused on works .  A Muslim practices these pillars so they can live as the inherently pure and innocent people they believe God created them to be.  Then God will reward them with heaven.  The problem with any works based religion is that you cannot ever really know if God forgives you when you mess up and you are never certain you have been good enough or done enough to get to heaven.

This brings me back to the email from our church member and the issue of what Christians can say to Muslims if this subject comes up.   My suggestion is to listen, ask questions and when asked, share what you believe. I find that exercising the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control) is the best approach.  You might even invite them to read some passages from the Bible with you and compare the verse from the Bible with passages from the Quran.  Many Christians want to debate theology with a Muslim but that approach really does not work. The fruits of the spirit are what are winning Muslims to Christ these days, particularly the sacrificial love and grace shown through Jesus’ followers.

What Bible verses speak to you about your need for a Savior and the forgiveness you have in Jesus?  What has Jesus done for you? Build some friendships.  Engage some conversations.  Enjoy the Adventure!