Tom Gilson

What Good Is There In Defending a God’s Honor?

I’m trying to understand the theology and the psychology of Muslim rage over a YouTube video denigrating the Prophet. I am not writing with opinions or answers but with questions.

On the surface Christianity and Islam share a zeal for the honor of God, but only on the surface; the differences between them are huge. Christians have not always gotten this right, which I think we can attribute to mixing up religion with defending nation or culture. It may be that something like that is also going on in Islam today. I don’t know; except as I understand Islam, religion and government and military are three sides of the same hypergeometric coin.

Here is the key difference as I see it from an under-informed distance. From where I sit, it looks as if Muslims are defending the Prophet, or the Prophet’s honor, or something like that. There is nothing of that in Christianity. Bruce L. Shelley opened a fine history book with, “Christianity is the only major religion to have as its major event the humiliation of its God.” Christ willingly accepted shame and dishonor upon himself. He did it partly to identify with every human’s failings. He did it partly to show that he could meet humiliation square on, and rise above it in victory. He did it partly because it provided all of us the way out of shame, dishonor, and ultimately death. I wrote of these things a few months ago.

God doesn’t need us coming to his defense. He’s more than capable of handling things for himself. (Need I point out what a huge understatement that is?) He calls us to honor him, but it’s not because he needs it, or because he’s conceited or vainglorious or petty. It’s because when we honor him we align ourselves with truth, in our lives, our habits, and our character. He calls us to honor him because in a very deep sense it is good and right to do so. It is good and it produces good.

I do not know, but I can’t help wondering, what good it does Allah, the Prophet, or Muslims that they rise up in violence defending the honor of their religion’s messenger. Maybe someone can help me understand.

And maybe it wouldn’t hurt for us Christians to think through ways we’ve wrongly thought we were defending God’s honor. We know he doesn’t need it. There are matters needing defense, certainly, but why and for whom? That’s what we need to keep straight.

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15 thoughts on “What Good Is There In Defending a God’s Honor?

  1. I think the New Testament writers would say we defend God’s honour when we are holy, when we reflect God by our behaviour (eg Matt 5:12, 1 Pet 2:12).

    In terms of fighting for God, consider Rom 12:14-21, especially 19-20. Or 1 Pet 2:23.

  2. Interesting post. I am not so sure if they are defending the honor of Muhammad or even acting for the sake of some deeply held religious belief. I think most of these people are just angry, indoctrinated young men with no hope for a real future. Its an outlet these governments can’t control because it appears to be in defense of their (overpowering) religion. I think its more political but where does one end and the other begin? I don’t think they are defending their religion any more than the abortion bomber who claims to acting in the name of the God. I think (like the abortion bomber) there is a certain degree of delusion, paranoia and psychosis involved. How many of these people have actually seen the videos? How many of them can even read for that matter? The middle east is rife with illiteracy, superstition, oppression and manipulation.

    I think you are right that Christianity and this current “honor” of “the prophet” cannot be compared. I don’t believe that the reason for this,however, is because Christians celebrate a humiliated God, but rather this is because of years of cultural shifts, rules of law and to a degree the nature of the two religions. In times past Christianity, government and culture were all equal. I could see this sorta thing happening in those times…(sorta like the witch trials without the court) but I wonder, is it more difficult to actually honor God when everyone around you pushing, shoving and living their one dominate religion then it is like our current state in the west where we have choice?

  3. has some info on the subject of fighting back, particularly as it relates to Quran 2:191. I don’t see filmmakers as the equivalent of persecutors or those in the position to oppress Muslims.

    So if I am understanding the context of the Quran correctly, these fighting Muslims are overstepping their bounds by not doing what Allah has asked them to do. They are DISHONORING Allah and the Prophet.

  4. I would like to pose a few counter questions: What good is there in insulting another religion or their religious beliefs and/or culture? What good is there in boasting in the supremacy of Christianity or the Western culture?
    I do not know, but I can’t help wondering, what good it does Western Christians and their God, His Son Jesus Christ, or the Church that they rise up in vocal/media/virtual/artistic violence attacking other religions and their prophets? What good does it do to the expansion of God’s reign and His mission?

  5. “God doesn’t need us coming to his defense. He’s more than capable of handling things for himself. (Need I point out what a huge understatement that is?)”

    I strongly disaggree with this viewpoint, as it paints a picture which belittles the God is Islam. Even though God does not “need us” to proclaim his name (according to some verses in the Bible) He still does it that way. As an example, Apologetics makes a huge contributions in defending the Christian Faith (defending God), and I think this is brilliant. God therefore also uses Christians who “defends Him”, and if this statment is true, then it doesn’t fit in all that good with your statement.

    I’m trying to paint a picture with a bit of empathy for why these Muslim are doing what they are doing…

    – Should we protect what is important to us (our Faith, the public image of Christ)? I think yes.
    – Should we be offended by people mocking our faith? I think not.
    – Must we simply stand by and watch without doing nothing should someone mock / belittle our faith? I think not.
    – Should we always act in love and with tact toward those that “Do not know what they are doing”? Christ did. I think we should also do the same.

  6. Greetings, Nico, and thanks for the comment.

    The truth regarding God needs defending. That’s what apologetics is about, and it’s also closely related to (though not identical with) the urgent need for Christians to live according to the truth.

    Specifically, the truth needs defending on a certain battleground: in the hearts and minds of each of us who make behavioral, relational, and spiritual decisions based on what we rightly or wrongly think is the truth. In other places and venues, the truth is plenty strong to stand with or without us. God himself is strong enough not to need our defense; he is not threatened by anyone.

    I’m not sure what you mean about belittling the God in Islam. The God of Islam is different from the God of Christianity. If the God of Christianity is really God, as I am convinced he is, then the God of Islam is no God at all. There’s nothing there to belittle.

    That’s my opinion of the Muslims’ God. That doesn’t translate into an opinion regarding Muslims. I would tell them I believe they are wrong, but I would say it with the expectation that they would (usually) return a similar answer toward me, and I would also say it with the hope that we could disagree respectfully as fellow human beings.

  7. Quick question for John before I write my reply. I could go a couple different ways on that answer, depending on what perspective your question is coming from. Are you interested in extending God’s reign and his mission yourself, and wondering whether one way to do it is better than another? Or are you asking about this from a non-Christian’s perspective and wondering whether Christians are doing things that undermine our own principles? Or something else that I missed? Thanks.

  8. “what good it does Western Christians and their God, His Son Jesus Christ, or the Church that they rise up in vocal/media/virtual/artistic violence attacking other religions and their prophets?

    Your post makes it sound like you believe Christains regularly “rise up in…violence” and “attack other religions”. When has any legitimate Christian organization done this? The fact is that Christians are attacked far more than any other religion and this by many, many orders of magnitude. And if you’re referring to the guy in FL who calls himself a Christian and insults Islam, why all of a sudden he is a spokesman for and representative of all Christians?

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