He moved from Islam's fatalism to God's forgiveness & compassion
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)--Emir Caner began his life as a Muslim who could be found at the mosque every Friday. His uncles, cousins and two sisters live as Muslims -- his father died a Muslim.
At the age of 12, Caner, assistant professor of church history and Anabaptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, became a Christian after attending a revival in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.
It was in that small, country church that Caner heard for the first time that God loves him.
"Now listen, this was not the first time I had been to a church, but it was the first time someone had the guts to confront me with my sin," Caner told a Southeastern chapel audience Dec. 4 in Wake Forest, N.C. "I was sitting there and I heard this evangelist preach and he said, 'God loves you, but you must receive him. You must believe he died on a cross. You must believe he was raised from the dead. You must believe he was a sacrifice for your sin. And it is as simple as recognizing that you are a sinner in need of a Savior and you can be born again.'"
That night Caner surrendered his life to Jesus.
Grace -- being forgiven by God for his sin -- was a completely new concept for this new Christian convert.
"Islam teaches that God is only as close as your jugular vein. He is judgment, pure judgment," Caner said. In Islam, a person just hopes that the scales balance out in eternity, he said. "When you get before him [Allah], you can say, 'Oh, Allah, I was at least 51 percent good.'"
Caner said the night he accepted Christ he understood that God was real and personal, "someone to whom I could speak and someone who would speak back to me."
Preaching from 2 Peter 3:1-9 in the Southeastern chapel service, Caner outlined four ways Islam mocks and scoffs at God.
First, Islam scoffs at the Word of God by teaching false doctrine, Caner said, citing the first two verses of 2 Peter: "Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words that were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandments of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior."
Caner said, "In regards to those false teachers, I believe the greatest heresy ever purported in mankind is that of Islam. If you don't believe me, ask why 1.2 billion Muslims are dying and going to hell. If that is not personal to you, may I make it personal?" he asked. "That includes my uncles, cousins and my two sisters. It is personal."
A false teacher, Caner said, is not necessarily someone who goes against the Bible, but it also may be someone who does not preach the entire Bible or someone who takes away from the Word of God.
"It is those people who say that the Bible is inspired in spots and they are inspired to spot the spots. That is heresy," Caner stated. "I believed when I was a Muslim that the Koran was entirely inerrant and infallible. You know why? Because that was the source of our faith.... A Muslim believes that you [Christians] are 'people of the book,' that Jews are 'people of the book.' They believe the Torah was inspired by God. They believe the Psalms of David were inspired by God. They believe the Gospels were inspired by God. And yet they will tell you that it is now corrupt. I have only one question: If you believe that Allah almighty is all-powerful and all-knowing, how can an all-powerful God and all-knowing God allow his Word to be corrupted by frail humankind? It's not possible. It's either the Word of God or it is the word of man."
Second, Caner said Islam scoffs at the Son of God, citing 2 Peter 3:4: "Knowing this first, that scoffers will come in the last days walking according to their own lusts and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming?'"
Caner explained that Muslims don't believe Jesus is God who can forgive sin, and they don't believe in his crucifixion for the forgiveness of sin. Caner then noted what he called the greatest difference between the founders of Christianity and Islam: "Mohammed shed other peoples' blood. Jesus shed his own," he stated. "When you talk to a Muslim, make the clarion call. Mohammed shed other peoples' blood. Jesus shed his own. Jesus is the one who said, 'Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.' Listen, if you shed other peoples' blood, you are a warrior. If you shed your own, you are the Savior.
"The ultimate difference is that Muslims don't believe Jesus is God and that Jesus was crucified," Caner reiterated. "But without a cross, there is no resurrection." Without Christ's resurrection, there is no salvation, he said, and without salvation "there is only damnation."
Third, Caner said Islam scoffs at the judgment of God.
In 2 Peter 3:7, the Bible states: "But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition, destruction of ungodly men."
"I grew up believing that on one shoulder was a good angel. On the other shoulder was a bad angel," Caner said. "And then after all the life is over, you would get to stand before Allah, [with] no intercessors, no mediator, and hopefully he would put the scales on and as you saw them go back and forth you would say, 'I pray I am 51 percent good so I can go to heaven and not 51 percent bad so I can go to hell where my skin will be roasted, and I will be boiled, and I will be alone."
Caner then told the story of his father's last few days on earth. As he was on his deathbed, he handed his sons a Koran and told them to read everything contained in it.
"As he was on the precipice of death, he said, 'Remember I was a good person,'" Caner recounted.
"He was a loving father ... but [Scripture says] there is none good. For the Muslim to say that you could stand before almighty Allah and say that you are good enough to get into heaven offends the majesty and providence of Almighty God," Caner said. "There is no sweeter release than to look unto our Savior and know that you are saved. Not because you say so, because he says so! Not because you did anything, but because he did everything!"
Finally, Caner said Islam scoffs at the love of God.
Highlighting 2 Peter 3:9, which says, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise for some count slackness, but He is longsuffering, patient .... Not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance," Caner explained that the underlying theological current of Islam is that of fatalism.
"If God wants you, he will have you, and if he doesn't want you, he does want you to go to hell. That is fatalism. That's what Islam teaches: that God pleases to damn people as much as he pleases to let them into heaven by their good works. He wants them to be damned. He, in his will, causes them to be damned," Caner explained.
The greatest demonstration of God's love outside of the church and evangelism is the "essential tenet of religious liberty," Caner noted. "If you believe as I do, that love cannot be coerced, then you must believe in religious liberty," he said. "Religious liberty says you have the right to share your faith, Muslims have the right to share their faith, as we do, because we are not afraid of the truth, and when truth is found, it is found in the Bible and in Jesus Christ.
"The difference between the two religions is that one God is compassionate and the other is fatalistic," Caner continued. "Let us win as many people to Jesus Christ as God will allow us to win.... It's not about facts, it's about faith. It's not about fear, but it is about our heavenly Father. And it is definitely not about self, but it is about sacrifice. [The] sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. That's why John the Baptist could stare and say, 'Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.' If you want to know how personal God is, in Islam you go to meet him. In Christianity, he comes to meet you."
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: EMIR CANER.