Judaism

Judaism Today Throughout the last several decades, the eyes of the world have frequently focused on the tiny nation of Israel. What is the significance of this nation and her religion? The focus of this article is the religion of the Jews. When studying Judaism, however, we must understand that there is a distinction between the Jewish people and the religion of Judaism. Many Jews do not embrace Judaism, but consider themselves to be secular, atheistic, or agnostic. The term Judaism is often used to identify the faith of modern Jews as well as Old Testament Jews. For our purposes, the term is used to refer to the religion of the rabbis established around 200 B.C. and crystallized in A.D. 70. At this time, developments in rabbinic Judaism took place that distinguished it from the Old Testament faith. New institutions arose such as the synagogue (the house of worship and study), the office of rabbi (a leader holding religious authority), and the yeshivot (religious academies for training rabbis). One of the greatest changes came with the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. Sacrifices and the priesthood came to an end, and the rabbis became the authorities on spiritual and legal matters. Since the eighteenth century, three main branches of Judaism developed: Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative. Orthodox Judaism upholds the

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Buddhism

For centuries, Buddhism has been the dominant religion of the Eastern world. With the rise of the Asian population in the United States, Buddhism has had a tremendous impact on this country as well. Presently, there are an estimated 300 million Buddhists in the world and 500 thousand in the United States.1 It remains the dominant religion in the state of Hawaii, and many prominent Americans have accepted this religion, including the former governor of California, Jerry Brown,2 Tina Turner, Phil Jackson (coach of the Los Angeles Lakers), Richard Gere, and Steven Seagal. The Dalai Lama has become a prominent spiritual figure for many throughout the world. The Origin of Buddhism Buddhism began as an offspring of Hinduism in the country of India. The founder was Siddhartha Gautama. It is not easy to give an accurate historical account of the life of Gautama since no biography was recorded until five hundred years after his death. Today, much of his life story is clouded in myths and legends which arose after his death. Even the best historians of our day have several different–and even contradictory–accounts of Gautama’s life. Siddhartha Gautama was born in approximately 560 B.C. in northern India. His father, Suddhodana, was the ruler over a district near the Himalayas which is today the country of Nepal. Suddhodana sheltered his

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The Lives of Muhammad and Jesus

Muhammad and Jesus are the founders of the two largest religions in the world and two of the most influential people in the history of the world. Both men serve not only as founders but also the ideal models whose lives are to be emulated by all their followers. What kind of lives did they live? What example did they leave behind, and how is their example impacting our world today? This work will examine the lives of both men. In my research I have relied on what is considered by Muslims to be some of the most authoritative historical sources on the life of Muhammad. The first source is the Qur’an, the inspired text of Islam. Second is the Hadith, a record of the many sayings and the life events of Muhammad. The most recognized collection is by Ismail Sahih Bukhari written in 870 A.D. Third is the first and most authoritative biography of Muhammad written by Ibn Ishaq nearly 150 years after Muhammad’s death. In examining the life of Jesus, I relied primarily on the New Testament. The four gospels are biographies of His life. Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written prior to 70 A.D., and John was written in 95 A.D. The letters of the New Testament written by his disciples also serve as a historical source.

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A Brief Overview and Biblical Critique of Confucius

The Life of Confucius Born in 550 B.C., Confucius is considered the greatest of all Eastern philosophers. His teachings are foundational to Asian cultures. His writings, The Five Classics, a collection of ancient Chinese literature, and The Four Books, a collection of his and his disciple’s teachings, were for centuries the standard curriculum for Chinese education. Confucius’ teachings and biography were recorded and edited many years after his death by his disciples. Although historians present various accounts of his life, there are some basic facts about which we are reasonably sure. From these basic facts, it is possible to outline the major events of his life. Confucius lived during the Chou Dynasty (1100 B.C. to 256 B.C.) He was born in northern China in the Lu province into a family of humble circumstances. His father died at a young age. Confucius began studying under the village tutor and, at the age of fifteen, devoted his life to study. He married at twenty but soon divorced his wife and had an aloof relationship with his son and daughter. In his twenties, he became a teacher and gathered a group of loyal disciples. At this time, the land was divided among feudal lords. The moral and social order was in a state of decay. Confucius sought a way to restore both cultural

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Jesus in the Qur’an

Islam and Christianity both recognize Jesus as a significant historical figure. However, they teach contrary doctrines regarding the nature and person of Jesus Christ. Christians have taught from the beginning that Jesus is the divine Son of God. This was not a doctrine invented centuries after the life of Christ as some allege, but was taught from the beginning by Christ Himself and the church. There is strong evidence that supports the New Testament was written in the first century and there are numerous verses proclaiming the deity of Christ (Matt. 1:23, Mark 2:1-12, and John 1:1). Old Testament prophecies regarding the nature of the Messiah proclaimed that He would be human as well as divine (Isaiah 7:14, 9:6). Even non-Christian Roman historical works, such as the writings of Pliny the Younger (112 A. D.) and Celsus (177 A. D.), acknowledge that the Christians worshipped Christ as God. Muslims reject the biblical teaching that Christ is the divine Son of God. Islam builds upon the teachings of the Qur’an, which is considered perfect, and without error. The Qur’an teaches that Jesus was a significant prophet but not the divine Son of God. Muslims reject the doctrine of the Trinity, and, therefore, worshipping Jesus as God is considered shirk, or blasphemy (Sura 5:72). Islam teaches that Jesus Himself never claimed to

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The World of Animism

World View of Animism From Genesis to the present, the biblical worldview has clashed with the worldview of animism. Animism or folk religion, is a religion that sees a spirit or spiritual force behind every event and many objects of the physical world carry some spiritual significance. In most parts of the world, animism blends in with formal religions. Among followers of the major religions lie many animistic beliefs and practices. Animistic beliefs actually dominate the world. Most Taiwanese believe in the Chinese folk religions. Most Hindus and Muslims in Central and Southeast Asia, and most Buddhists in China and Japan combine their religion with various animistic beliefs and practices. In many parts of the world, Christianity has not displaced the local folk religion but coexists beside it in an uneasy tension. The animistic worldview contains both the observed or physical world and the unseen or spirit world. There is no sharp distinction between the two realities, what happens in one affects the other. The seen or the physical world consists of what we can see, feel, and experience. It includes forces of nature and physical beings. In the seen world the earth plays a prominent role because it is viewed as a living entity and is often worshiped as Mother Earth. Nature is believed to be alive. Hills, caves,

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Islam and the Sword

Introduction On September 11, 2001 Americans found themselves confronted by an enemy they knew little about. We had suddenly lost more lives to a sneak attack than had been lost in the attack on Pearl Harbor and yet few understood the reasons for the hatred that prompted the destruction of the World Trade Center towers and part of the Pentagon. Even in the days that followed, Americans were getting mixed signals from the media and from national politicians. One voice focused on the peaceful nature of Islam, going so far as to argue that Osama bin Laden could not be a faithful Muslim and commit the acts attributed to him. Others warned that bin Laden has a considerable following in the Muslim world and that even if he was removed as a potential threat many would step in to replace him with equal or greater fervor. Some argued that fundamentalist Muslims are no different than fundamentalist believers of any religion. The problem is not Islam, but religious belief of any type when taken too seriously. This view holds that all forms of religious belief, Christian, Jewish, or Islamic can promote terrorism. Robert Wright, a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania writes that: If Osama Bin Laden were a Christian, and he still wanted to destroy the World Trade Center,

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Islam in the Modern World

Islam and the Clash of Civilizations Islam is a seventh century religion. For a moment, think about that statement. I doubt anyone would consider Christianity a first century religion. You might acknowledge that it began in the first century, but you wouldn’t probably describe it as a religion of the first century because the timeless principles of the gospel have adapted to the times in which they are communicated. In many ways, Islam has remained stuck in the century in which it developed. One of the great questions of the twenty-first century is whether it will adapt to the modern era. Certainly many Muslims have done so, but radical Muslims have not. Perhaps the leading scholar on Islam in this country is the emeritus professor from Princeton University, Bernard Lewis. This is what he had to say about Islam and the modern world: Islam has brought comfort and peace of mind to countless millions of men and women. It has given dignity and meaning to drab and impoverished lives. It has taught people of different races to live in brotherhood and people of different creeds to live side by side in reasonable tolerance. It inspired a great civilization in which others besides Muslims lived creative and useful lives and which, by its achievement, enriched the whole world. But Islam, like

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A Basic Overview of Islam

With the conflict in the Middle East and recent immigration of many from that region to the West, the religion of Islam has received a lot of attention. There are approximately one billion Muslims in the world today with the largest population in Southeast Asia. There are many different sects that hold various views, and it is thus not possible to present an extensive treatment of each area. This article presents a brief overview of the basic beliefs of Islam. What is Islam? Islam is the religion of all who believe that there is one God Allah and that Mohammed was his prophet. The term “Islam” means submission. It refers to all who live in submission to Allah, the God of Islam. History of Islam The founder of Islam is Muhammad. Muhammad was born in 570 A.D. The earliest biography of his life records that his mother and father died when he was very young. He was first raised by his grandfather and later by his uncle. When he was 25, he married Khadija, his employer who was much older. Khadija’s wealth allowed Muhammad the time to retreat into the caves of the Arabian Desert to meditate. At age 40 he began to receive revelations which he believed were from the angel Gabriel. Biographers record that upon receiving these revelations,

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Islam and Political Correctness

Muhammad and Islam Nearly everyone can remember what they were doing on September 11, 2001. That fateful day affected all of us and certainly increased our desire to know more about Islam. In the years following, we have all learned more about the world’s second largest religion. But sometimes, political correctness has clouded clear thinking about Islam. We hear that “Islam is a religion of peace.” Some even say, “The God of Islam is the same God as the God of the Jews and the Christians.” So what is the truth about these statements about Islam? I want to look at some of these statements and provide a biblically-based response. We need to know the facts about Islam and this current war on terror. The first statement we will address is often heard in religion classes on college campuses. That is that “Muhammad is like every other religious founder.” This simply is not the case. For example, nearly every major religion in the world teaches a variation of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Islam does not have a Golden Rule. Instead, it makes very definite distinctions in the way Muslims are to treat believers and unbelievers. The latter are called infidels and are often treated harshly or killed. This religious perspective

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