Another lunch time discussion – this time a slightly different topic – the beginning, nature and end of sin.
After the students eventually settled down (it is lunchtime) I asked them what they believe about sin – where did it come from? What do we make sure our sin doesn’t lead us to hell? etc… One of the students explained that sin was caused by Adam in the beginning – the world was ruled by demons and God (Allah) decided to create a caliphate on Earth with Adam as the ruler. But things didn’t go to plan and Adam sinned (I’m not sure how or why) but he sinned and Muslims still have the task of creating a world wide caliphate on Earth as God had originally intended. The students then explained that sin can be ‘cured’ or ‘cancelled out’ by a number of ways. Firstly, you can sincerely go to Allah and repent and ask for forgiveness from your sins. Secondly, when you sin – you can do a good deed which would outweigh the sin and therefore maintain your journey to paradise. Finally (according to the students) you can live your life in a way that consistently involves good deeds and therefore build up enough good deeds to get into paradise. They explained that we all have two angels with two books sitting on our shoulders – one is recording our good deeds and the other is recording our bad deeds. When you die your books are weighed and if the book containing your good deeds is heavier you enter paradise. However, if your bad deed book is heavier you go to hell for the specific time period to pay for your bad deeds and then you enter paradise (this is only for Muslims). Anyone who rejects Islam and the message of Muhammad will go to hell regardless. Although those who never heard about Islam or died as children, etc.. will go to paradise anyway. This was how the students explained their concept of sin, the consequences thereof and the ‘cure’ for sin.
I then explained that the Christian view of sin is different – we believe that sin is a rebellion against God and therefore cannot just be cancelled with a few good deeds. Our sin must be wiped out completely – we must be made into different people to be with God again. God cannot accept our sinful souls – even with a book full of good deeds. Therefore, someone who was innocent had to pay the price for us – we cannot save ourselves. This was the case from the very beginning of sin with Adam – once sin had entered humankind – we were all unclean and could no longer be with God. Adam wasn’t given the chance to make up for his sin by simply being kind to Eve (or the nearest monkey) – his soul was infected and he and Eve had to leave God’s presence. They could not save themselves and neither can we. Sin is inherent and gets worse with generations. Therefore someone outside of sin had to take the punishment for us – so that we may be forgiven. I argued that their belief that Allah forgives them when they sincerely ask for it is a bit cheap – Allah doesn’t have anything to forgive them with. However, when Jesus died – he died for our sins so that we can be forgiven. It is only by his death that we can be forgiven and have any hope of salvation. I tried to use an illustration – that humans are like a drug-addicted child – that child can go to his parents and ask for forgiveness for his bad behaviour as many times as he wants but (and then I asked the students and they agreed) the parents will end up not forgiving him – because he hasn’t changed – he is still drug addicted. The parents can choose two options – either they leave the son on his own and let him make the choices to clean himself up (meaning they stay clean and untouched by his addictions) or they accept him back into the house and help him (meaning they have to take his s**t in their house and deal with him in his addicted state).
In this scenario the parents – who play the role of Allah (God) – leave the son to make himself better and then bring himself back to them when he is clean. However, in the Christian concept of God – the parents accept the son back into the house (as a drug addict) and therefore the child doesn’t suffer all the consequences of his actions (only some) but the parents must also suffer the consequences as well (they take a heavy price for helping him clean up his life) – I realise its not the best analogy. I explained that this is the same with the Christian belief about God – that as a Father he took the punishment for humans so that we could be forgiven – and – as a Father – he steps into our lives and helps us through all our s**t – something that is only made possible through the death of Jesus (God himself).
They then explained that their view of God is not the same as mine – they (Muslims) don’t believe in God as a father – but rather a God of different attributes (merciful, etc….) – but specifically not a father. Whereas the Christian view of God is primarily as a loving Father.
Our conversation then meandered through the minefield of Jesus’ deity and the unanswerable questions. But that was the main thing that we talked about today.