Why the Clash of Civilizations?
By John Ross Schroeder
To comprehend why Islamic and Western civilization conflict so sharply requires studying the basic differences between their underlying philosophies. Make no mistake: The bare facts reveal that the West now finds itself in very serious jeopardy.
Author Samuel Huntington stated in his book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Orderthat "religion is a central defining characteristic of civilizations" (1998, p. 47). He's correct, of course. Most world religions are associated with one or more of our present civilizations.
Today we live in a multipolar age of multiple civilizations. We'll narrow our focus here to just two—Western Christian civilization and its Islamic counterpart. What sets them apart, and why are they at odds?
The Christian religion draws its teaching and values from a large number of books, written over a 1,500-year period, that collectively form the
. The prophets and the apostles wrote down, while divinely inspired, the content of the Judeo-Christian .
Crucial differences between Christianity and Islam
In contrast, while Islam teaches that the is revealed , it also claims that the has been corrupted and superceded by the Koran (or Quran, meaning "Recitation"). This book, which is about the size of the , is supposedly based on divine communication to Islam's founder, Muhammad (A.D. 570-632). The Koran is supplemented by the Hadith (or "Report"), a traditional record of other sayings and acts of Muhammad.
While Islam and Christianity claim belief in one God, the God of the and Allah of the Koran are not one and the same. "Islam begins and ends with the concept that there is no God but Allah. Allah is all-powerful, sovereign and unknowable" ( Burnett, Clash of Worlds, 2002, p. 114, emphasis added throughout).
While the Arabic word Allah means "God," the fact that Allah is pictured in the Koran as so distant, abstract and transcendent as to be unknowable helps to show that Allah is not just another name for the Christian God, as some mistakenly believe.
Our Creator has revealed His personhood and merciful, compassionate nature in His Word. In contrast to the Muslim view of Allah, the God of the is knowable! In He says, "But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me." Jesus Christ said in His prayer to the Father not long before His suffering and death on behalf of mankind, "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" ().
There is also the matter of reliability. For example, the Koran describes four conflicting calls to Muhammad.
Muhammad first stated that Allah appeared to him in the form of a man. Later Muhammad said that he was called by the Holy Spirit. Still later he said that angels (plural) appeared to him and said that Allah had called him to be a prophet. Last of all, he said that the angel Gabriel appeared to him and revealed the Koran to him.
The Koran similarly lumps peoples, places and practices separated by thousands of years and hundreds of miles all together at the same time. For example, it has crucifixion being used at the time of the Exodus, but it didn't come into practice until about a thousand years later.
It has Haman, a Persian official mentioned in the biblical book of Esther, working for the pharaoh in Egypt at the time of the Exodus, when that event took place a thousand years earlier. It claims that Alexander the Great was a Muslim who lived to a ripe old age, when Alexander was a Greek idolater who died in his early 30s.
These are only a few of the many conflicts not only between the Koran and the , but between the Koran and historical fact.
Over the centuries these and other fundamental differences have produced profound clashes between the two disparate civilizations.
Relationships to worldly governments differ sharplyWestern civilization, largely rooted in Christianity, has always recognized that practical conflicts between citizens need resolution sooner or later. It also understands that national political authorities are in place to maintain the social order.
According to the , the state deserves respect and basic compliance from its citizens. Jesus Christ clearly stated, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" ().
Two of Christ's apostles elaborated on this basic principle. Paul wrote, "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities" (). Peter wrote: "Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's [Christ's] sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors . . . Honor all people. Love the brotherhood [members of the Church]. Fear God. Honor the king" (, 17).
In sharp contrast, the ultimate goal of Islam is to bring all nations under its Islamic religious law (Sharia) now during this age of man—even if it means bringing down existing governments. Radical Islamic fundamentalists use suicide bombing and other gruesome forms of terrorism to accomplish this goal.
Wrote British author Roger Scruton: "The Muslim conception of holy law, pointing the unique way to salvation, and applying to every area of human life, involves a confiscation of the political. Those matters which, in Western societies, are resolved by negotiation, compromise, and the laborious work of offices and committees are [under Islamic rule] the object of immovable and eternal decrees, either laid down explicitly in the holy book [the Koran], or discerned there by some religious figurehead" ( The West and the Rest , 2002, p. 91, emphasis in original).
By contrast, true Christians await their soon-to-return King of Kings to supernaturally usher in the divine Kingdom of God to rule all nations—at last bringing peace and prosperity to this chaotic world (; 20:4-6).
Two radically different ways of lifeThe devastating 9/11 attacks on the United States revealed a world divided into two sharply different spheres—the Western democracies and populations propelled by radical religious fundamentalism. Islamists actually see a two-fold division of the nations— dar al-Islam (the "Abode of Submission") and dar al-harb (the "Abode of War").
To devout Muslims, only those countries predominantly controlled by the Islamic religion constitute the Abode of Submission ( Islam means "submission"). The rest face infiltration, oppression and attacks by Islamic believers until they are coerced into submission. Until then, these non-Islamic nations are part of dar al-harb, the Abode of War.
In non-Muslim lands with a minority Islamic population, the basic strategy is to appear outwardly peaceful and cooperative. And many Muslims may well be. Yet radicals work covertly underground in carrying out subversive designs. And as their proportion of the population grows, particularly in Western nations, Muslims in increasing numbers become more assertive in demanding their "rights," using Western freedoms to advance their cause at the expense of others.
Then, if and when the demographic tipping point arrives, the tactics switch to various types of coercion and force, using the fresh powers of a recently acquired Muslim plurality or majority. Any activity becomes permissible as long as it serves the overall end result—the advance of Islam.
But first those countries outside of the realm of Islam are usually asked to convert. If they refuse conversion, then the radicals feel free to use whatever means are necessary to bring these countries into the Islamic fold.
Twin assaults on Western civilizationNot only are the radical fundamentalist elements of Islam actively working to destroy the West, but our own civilization paradoxically finds many of its political and cultural leaders and movements actually undermining resistance to these foreign influences that would destroy Western civilization.
By choosing political correctness over facing the hard facts of reality, we willingly participate in our own downfall. We simply don't want to confront the moral cancers that are primarily responsible for our current civilizational and cultural decline.
Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips explains: "Our [Western] culture has been upended by moral and cultural relativism, the doctrine that denies any hierarchy of values but is doctrinaire in its own enforcement. Faced with an onslaught from the Islamic world that correctly recognizes Western culture as decadent, we no longer know what it is we want to defend.
"We tell ourselves that we stand for human rights, freedom, democracy, tolerance—and yet we also tell ourselves that we cannot uphold these rights because to prefer one culture over another is racist or xenophobic, even if the culture so preferred is one's own. So a liberal society by definition cannot defend itself but, in the interests of equality, must apparently accept its own obliteration" ( The World Turned Upside Down, 2010, pp. 281-282).
"Right and wrong" becomes a matter of adhering to one's own personal standards, based on whatever culture we currently embrace—whether liberal secular, nominally Christian or any other. Anciently, King Solomon warned us that the way of life that may seem so right to us will end up in our own spiritual destruction and death (; 16:25).
As in the days of Israel of old, many men and women today are thinking and doing what is right in their own eyes and choosing wrongly (see ; 21:25). Biblical standards are first ridiculed and then largely abandoned.
Abortion and euthanasia have gained acceptance by this misguided liberal thinking. Too many justify the murder of those not yet born and even encourage the premature death of the old and infirm among us. Marriage and family—the glue that holds society together—are redefined or discarded to meet people's personal whims.
Islam's gains paralleled by the West's declineUnlike Islam, the West has lost faith in its own traditional religious values. Mainstream churches have endured decades of disturbing decline. Attendance is often in near freefall. The teachings of the are impugned, and even God's existence is seriously questioned in religious quarters. Western clergy now includes so-called "Christian atheists."
Note Melanie Phillips again: "The loss of religious belief has meant the West has replaced reason and truth with ideology and prejudice, which it embraces in the manner of a secular inquisition. The result has been a kind of mass derangement, as truth and lies, right and wrong, victim and aggressor are all turned upside down.
"In medieval-style witch-hunts, scientists who are skeptical of global warming are hounded from their posts; Israel is ferociously demonized; and the United States is vilified over the war on terror— all on the basis of falsehoods and propaganda that are believed as truth" ( The World Turned Upside Down, inside front cover).
The Hebrew prophet Isaiah foresaw this aspect of our tragic human condition today: "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness . . ." (). Our Creator God makes His own views known through His Word of truth and judgments, which endure forever ().
God built the principle of cause and effect into the very fabric of our world. A simple biblical example: "For as the churning of milk produces butter, and wringing of the nose produces blood, so the forcing of wrath produces strife" (). So the simple principle of cause and effect produces these trends among various civilizations.
We see one end result all around us: Islam grows in numbers and strength while the West continues to decline. The adherents of Islam do not question Allah or the teachings of the Koran, however contradictory we Westerners feel that they are. But we in the supposedly Christian West are cavalier about foolishly and disrespectfully questioning God and the .
God laments: "Has a nation [ever] changed its gods, which are not [even] gods? But My people have changed their Glory [the true God] for what does not profit" ().
What should the West do?The ideal reaction of Western civilization would be to follow the advice offered by Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail: "If ever there was a time for the religious guardians of Western civilization to stand as its rock-solid defenders through their conspicuous moral clarity, surely this is it" ("Paralysis and Moral Confusion on Piazza Mahatma Gandhi (Otherwise Known as St Paul's)," Nov. 8, 2011).
But the likelihood of this seems very remote. So it comes down to your personal choices.
Your relationship with God must be at the very heart of your existence. Jesus Christ tells you exactly how to approach these end-time trends and events:
"But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" (, emphasis added throughout).
The alluring deceits of this age with its ungodly entertainment, its focus on gratifying the self and its multiple distractions will entice you to follow its false ways. The apostle John warns God's people: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" ().
In pursuit of the global restoration of His righteous ways (), God is in the process of bringing this evil age of man to a close. Jesus Christ instructs us to pray, "Thy kingdom come" (, King James Version). Our Creator will answer that prayer!
But first He will teach the nations some very hard lessons. As Jesus said of the events leading up to His return, "For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written [in the prophecies of the ] may be fulfilled" ().
This will be a time of traumatic reckoning. Jesus also said of that time: "It will be a time of great distress, such as there has never been before since the beginning of the world, and will never be again. If that time of troubles were not cut short, no living thing could survive" (:22, Revised English ).
As the end of this age draws closer, it is high time for us to shift the focus of our lives onto God and His marvelous plan for mankind!