Christianity & Islam
CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM
Christianity and Islam religions have two of the highest number of adherents in the world. Christianity takes up 33% of the world’s population while Islam is at 21%. In terms of actual population figures, Christianity was listed as having 2.1 billion followers while Islam has 1.5 billion (Adherents par. 1).
This article argues there exists particular similarities and differences between these two widely popular religion, i.e. Christianity and Islam. For the purpose of expounding on this thesis, this article will identify these similarities and differences using the arche-cosmos-ethos-telos framework. This paper posits that using this framework, it can be seen that Christianity and Islam are similar in their belief in arche (beginning) and telos (evangelization) elements, while these religions differ or diverge when it comes to each religion’s belief in cosmos, and details embedded in these beliefs.
Perhaps, one can best understand arche when we refer to Mark’s Gospel which opens with the term “arche” which means the “beginning” (Fenton par 1). As such, let us open our discussion with Christianity and Islam’s account of the beginning or the creation. Both Christianity and Islam subscribe to the belief that the creation of the universe is solely attributable to the power of God (for Christians) and Allah (for Muslims). However, the point of divergence lies in the fact that Christianity makes detailed discussion of the story of creation, which is said to begin with the creation of light, heaven or firmament, dry land and seas, sun, moon stars, sea and aerial creatures, and then man respectively (Christianity Oasis pars. 1-5), while Islam simply refers to the creation as the starting point for Allah’s power, as everything begins and ends with Allah. Again, no such detailed account of the process of creation is being subscribed to by Muslims as, “â€¦the creation story in Islam is described in the Qur’an as the creation of the universe by Allah’s will with a single command: “Be!” Several verses in the Qur’an highlight Allah’s power of creation: [Creator of the heavens and the earth from nothingness, He has only to say when He wills a thing: “Be,” and it is] and, [That is how God creates what He wills, when He decrees a thing, He says “Be,” and it is] (Al-Baqarah & Aal ‘Imran qtd. In El-Hadi par. 3).
For Christianity, the cosmos has either three or four territories depending on the strand of Christianity one is subscribing to. Although all Christians identify heaven (the dwelling place of God and angels), earth (the place of creation), and hell (place of fires and eternal torture), Catholics also believe in the purgatory (place for people who lived a good life but remained to have some sin that needed to be purged upon death) which is rejected by Protestantism and Reformation. Upon Judgment Day, all humans and some angels will be judged by God. As such, the Kingdom of Heaven shall prevail while the earth will be swept away (University of Wyoming pars. 1-4a).
The Islamic religion’s version of the cosmos, on the other hand, maintains that at the present, there exists heaven and earth (inhabited by humans, animals, demons, and the jinn which are invisible beings which can either be good or bad) which was created and ruled over by Allah (University of Wyoming par. 1b). Much like Christianity, Islam believes that come Judgment Day, everyone will either be rewarded (with eternal life in paradise) or punished (in hell). As such, a clear transformation of the realms of heaven and earth to paradise and hell shall take place. Simply put, the one form of the cosmos at the present will experience eventual transformation upon Judgment Day (ibid).
Christianity’s teaching is embodied by ethical perfection. Love is central to the Christian ethos, and this can be demonstrated by one’s love of God and love of one’s neighbor. Christian ethos also involves human’s aim to do what is pleasurable in the eyes of the Christian God. The lessons of voluntary poverty, perpetual chastity, obedience to God’s will, meekness, and humility is also important in Christian ethos (Knight par. 52).
Islamic ethos, on the other hand, is directed towards Allah, i.e., “His will Muslims submit; Him they praise and glorify; and in Him alone they hope” (The Columbia Encyclopedia par.6). Other obligations to the Islamic faith involve one’s commendation upon the good and abhorrence for the evil. This involves refraining from eating pork, drinking alcohol, and engaging in gambling activities (ibid).
At this point, we cannot say that there is a heightened difference between Christianity and Islam. Crudely, what is important for both religions is to revere God, do what is morally just, and be good to one’s neighbor. These are the emerging themes of Islamic and Christian ethos.
When we talk about telos, we usually refer to the “purpose,” “goal,” or the transcendental activity which needs to be given special attention (Kim 1).
We then proceed to the primary question of this subheading, “What is the end-goal of Christianity? “The goal of Christianity is eternal life with God in Heaven, a perfect existence in which God’s glory and bliss are shared. It is also a personal life, enjoyed differently by souls according to the amount of grace achieved in life” (Bnaiyer pars. 1-2).
The concept of evangelization, then, becomes integral in the discussion of the Christian telos. If Christianity’s goal is for humans to achieve eternal life with God in Heaven, then spreading the Word of God and this Truth is inevitable. Hence, evangelization can be seen as a key player in one’s understanding of the Christian telos (Barron pars. 1-2).
Islam’s perspective of its own self, is important in order to be able to understand Islamic goals as “Islam views itself as the only true religion – indeed the only religion worthy to be practiced. As such Islam has as one of its goals, total world domination. Islam’s driving goal is to literally eradicate what it sees as the false and misplaced worship of all other religions” (Answering Islam par. 4).
The above argumentation strengthens our initial claim that there exist some similarities as well as differences between the two most popular and widely-practiced religion, i.e. Christianity and Islam. By using the arche-cosmos-ethos-telos framework, this article was able to substantiate such claims.
Similarities can be seen in the belief that everything is created by God/Allah, and that the current cosmos set-up will be undergo transformation upon Judgment Day. In terms of ethos, Christianity and Islam believe that man’s action should be directed to the will of God/Allah, or towards action which God or Allah will find pleasurable. Evangelization, or spreading the word of God/Allah and spreading the Christian or Islamic religion are also held important by these two religions.
Differences, on the hand, can be largely seen in the details of these religions. For one, Christianity believes in the detailed story or narrative of Creation which is lacking in the Islamic belief. There are also minor differences in terms of the cosmos set-up within various Christian religions as well as between Christianity and Islam in general.
As such, we can see the utility of Smith’s main thesis, i.e. that amidst all these perceived differences among religions, what is vital at the end of the day, is that these religions remain to have common points which we can find in their goals, prescribed morals, and to some extent belief. Moreover, each religion has its distinct appeal and likeability factor which can be endearing to different groups of people; hence resulting to adherence to the different world religions.
Adherents. 2005. Major Religions of the World Ranked by Number of Adherents. 6 May 2009.
Answering Islam. n.d. Islam and the Goal of World Domination. 6 May 2009
Barron, Robert. n.d. The Evangelical Task within the Context of the Contemporary Culture. USCCB. 6 May 2009 .
Bnaiyer Website. n.d. Goals of Christianity. 6 May 2009
Christianity Oasis. 2009. Creation Story. 6 May 2009
El-Hadi, Nehal. 2005. Islam and the Nature of the Universe. Islam Online. 6 May 2009
Fenton, John. n.d. Mark’s Gospel. Trinity URC Plymouth. 6 May 2009
Kim, Bockja. n.d. Transcendental Knowledge — The Goal (Telos) of Human Activities — East And West. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. 6 May 6, 2009 .
Knight, Kevin. 2009. Christianity. New Advent. 6 May 2009
Smith, Huston. The World’s Religions Our Great Wisdom Traditions. New York: Harper
The Columbia Encyclopedia. 2007. Islam. Bartleby. 6 May 2009
University of Wyoming. n.d.a Christianity’s Cosmos. 6 May 2009
University of Wyoming. n.d.b Islam’s Notion of the Cosmos. 6 May 2009
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