Toward Greater Faith in Things That Last, and Toward More Far-Reaching Understanding . . .
I have for many years wondered about the Muslim use of the word “infidel.” It has seemed to me that Muslims call this word into service ineptly, because one can only be a perpetrator of infidelity if he has ever asserted loyalty in the first place. Since I have never asserted loyalty to the Muslim concept of God or to their religious system, I surely can not be aptly labeled an infidel.
Further reflection, though, causes me to wonder about the de-merging of what are often called the world’s three great faiths. It is not as though I believe, or in any way support, the inner or outer workings of Islam or Judaism, but I do understand that we have common roots. From the Muslim’s perspective — and here I must acknowledge that I have never thought this through before — Jews and Christians must seem to have become disloyal to God during the course of history. For the Muslim, Moses was a prophet, and Jesus was a prophet, but Mohammed was the prophet. (Compare this to the Mormons and Joseph Smith. This is NOT beside the point.) For the Muslim, Mohammed was the fulfillment of what had gone before, and anyone who rejects Mohammed rejects it all. One who rejects Mohammed is, for them, an infidel.
In my meanderings, I have encountered quite a few people who have repudiated, to one degree or another, various ideals and practices of the American Restoration Movement. It is rarely difficult for me to accept such a person’s pathway, since I myself have picked and chosen — as I see this Movement lining up with, or disagreeing with, scripture. But when a person summarily rejects the Movement, that person may aptly be labeled an “infidel” to that Movement. (This person is very difficult for me to trust, I might add. When one has understood certain inalienable truths, principles, and scruples … and later rejects them wholesale, he seems like an infidel to me.) Today, I think that I understand a little more of the Muslim’s idea of infidelity.
Muslims are right, of course, about the rampant materialism in the western world. (While many of them have little clarity around their own weaknesses at times, they are right in this area about us.) That soldiers in the Gulf war were required to ascend to Muslim moral code, living without alcohol and Playboy (Yancey, p. 92) should tell us something. And yet materialism and worldliness are mere symptoms of the greater evil. If we have denied the supreme, holy God, that is the foundational sin.
Have we denied and rebelled against God? Why, yes, we have. I am concerned by the country’s denial, to whatever extent that has occurred. But Yancey rightly probes, “Does God really judge the United States or any other country as a national entity? . . . God is now working not primarily through nations, but through an invisible kingdom that transcends nations.” (p. 99)
And I am exceedingly more concerned by individuals’ denials — yes, including my own. The reign of God exists in the human heart, not in the institutions of religion; and the reign of God, unlike any denomination or nation, is forever.