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Being politically incorrect with love: refuting objections to Jesus’s death by crucifixion (part 1)

Updated: May 21

Last week we were joined by our friend Ian Doll to chat about Christians showing up at work (listen here). Ian is a longtime member of Opus Dei, a part of the Catholic Church (the name is Latin for “Work of God”).

Opus Dei members and what they commit to are often misunderstood. And, frankly, what Opus Dei is and what its members strive for is lied about and misrepresented constantly, even in credible media outlets that ought to be capable of impartial journalism.

Opus Dei members are serious about their Christianity and serious about living their Catholic faith. And, with love and humility, they are unapologetic about the logical consequences of their beliefs. And that is unpopular in our relativistic culture.

Opus Dei members readily accept the reality that Christians working in the secular world do so alongside non-Christians and encounter non-Christian values, priorities and policies. I readily accept this too. But as I have written about before, it does not stop there. Christians working in the secular world also increasingly encounter (at least in the West) hostility toward their values (e.g., narratives against the Church’s perennial teaching that marriage is between one man and one woman) and disdain for the committed Christian’s belief that other religions are false even if they do contain some elements of truth (not that most self-professed Christians in some countries, including my own, even believe that anymore).

The thing is, basically all religions make mutually exclusive claims. This isn’t unique to Christianity.

So the committed believer of basically any religion believes other religions are false. Note that when I say “false” I do not mean that this entails people believing there is not merit, value or indeed elements of truth in other religions. I do mean that, ultimately, the committed believer of any religion believes that all other religions cannot be fully true because they claim mutually exclusive things.

It is obvious that if Christianity is true, all other religions are necessarily not true. It is the same if you swapped “Christianity” in that sentence for “Islam” or “Buddhism” or “Hinduism” or “Paganism” or “Atheism”. No matter what, eventually one or none of them is true. And a truth cannot contradict other truths, which means if one is true and the others claim conflicting truths then they must in fact be false.

I (and Opus Dei members) believe Christianity is true, which means I (and they) believe anything other than Christianity is ultimately false. See (again) my explanation of “false” above.

These are politically incorrect sentiments. They are anti-relativistic and anti-“what is true for you might not be true for me” logic that our secular culture is dangerously and blindly obsessed with. As a Canadian (especially), I am supposed to be hyper politically correct, and it is basically a cultural expectation (in a country oozing with surface-level politeness) that Christians not declare other religions to not be true. But that is what I believe, and what every other committed Christian ultimately believes.

Why does this matter? Because to be a Christian means sharing your faith and defending it. As we are instructed in the Bible’s First Epistle of Peter (3:13-16):

“Now who is going to harm you if you are enthusiastic for what is good? But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.”

And in the words of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of Matthew (28:18-20):

“All power in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Western culture has gradually but certainly become relativistic, skeptical of truth and obsessive about avoiding causing offense (even to the point of lying).

But sharing the Christian faith can require political incorrectness because Christianity’s truth claims require hard judgments and statements about other faiths, including Islam.

Consider the following:

  • I personally know and have worked with many Muslims and I have great respect for (many of) them and their commitment to their faith’s moral teachings;

  • as a Christian I am required to love and respect everyone (even my enemies!);

  • Christianity and Islam have many shared underpinnings and moral parallels;

  • committed Christians and Muslims stand united against many of the cultural and sexual poisons endemic in modern Western culture;

  • Christianity and Islam are mutually exclusive because they claim opposite things, so if one is true the other cannot be; and

  • I believe Christianity is true which means I believe Islam and every other non-Christian religion are false (yet again, see my explanation of “false” above).

Most people readily agree with the first 4 or 5 bullet points, and cringe at the last 1 or 2.

But Jesus did not tell us that He is but one option among many equally good options. He said, according to the Gospel of John (14:6-7):

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

It is Jesus or nothing.

When I was a practical atheist living a hedonistic and immoral lifestyle, I looked into Islam. Why? At the time I worked for a highly intelligent Muslim and had met through my work many other intelligent Muslims. I assumed they must have good reasons for believing what they (purport to) believe. I subsequently learned enough about Islam, its theology and its requirements to know I could not believe it is true. I won’t disrespect Muslims by telling them anything other than what I believe is true. If I am called to love everyone (and I am called to love everyone) then I owe them the truth.

I have studied Islam. This blog post is part 1 of a 2-part defense against Muslim objections to the crucifixion of Jesus based on my research as a graduate student at the University of Toronto. My intention is simply to explain why the challenge to Christianity put forth by Muslims over Jesus’s death by crucifixion is false. The reader can follow that to its logical conclusion...

Why does discussing the Christian versus Islam perspective on the crucifixion matter?

Because if Jesus did not die by crucifixion then the Bible is wrong and the resurrection of Jesus did not occur, and thus Christianity is false and what I believe is a lie. (And this whole podcast is a giant waste of time too!) 

There are three main Islamic objections to Jesus’s death by crucifixion:

  1. its historicity (i.e., historical authenticity);

  2. the swoon theory; and

  3. the substitute theory.

I will explain each in turn next week.

Then I will refute them. I will do so respectfully, of course, in the hopes of:

  1. helping my fellow Christians better understand and defend their faith;

  2. helping any potential Muslim readers better understand Christianity; and

  3. helping those (whether Muslim or otherwise) who would argue against the crucifixion of Jesus understand what exactly they are claiming.

For now, I invite my readers (especially the Christians) to consider what they (think they) know about Islam and how it differs from both Judaism and Christianity. I am constantly surprised by how little most Christians understand about Islam!

I also invite everyone to tune into the episode of the podcast coming this week, as we are discussing Christianity and its uneasy truce with capitalism. Because I am also constantly surprised by how little most Christians understand about capitalism (and socialism) too!

God bless,

Travis (writing from the Italian island of Ischia, which Pope Saint John Paul II visited in 2003)

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