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01 February 2011

Christians, Muslims debate Jesus, sin and salvation in conference at Southeastern Bible College

Raed Awad.jpgRaed Awad, imam of the Hoover Crescent Islamic Center, spoke at the "Islam and Christianity" conference on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011, at Southeastern Bible College. He steps down as imam at the mosque on Feb. 1, when he moves to Malaysia. (Birmingham News file photo)
Christians and Muslims debated the divinity of Jesus and discussed their other theological differences today at "Islam and Christianity," a conference held at Southeastern Bible College.
"We believe Jesus is a chosen messenger of God," said Muslim speakerRaed Awad, who will step down Feb. 1 as imam of the Hoover Crescent Islamic Center when he moves to Malaysia. Asked by an audience member about Jesus' own claims of divinity, Awad said that the New Testament suffers from additions and misinterpretations. The Islamic holy book, the Qu'ran, says Jesus was not crucified and resurrected, as the New Testament claims, he said.
Jesus was merely a prophet, not God, he said. "Nobody can see God and live," Awad said. "Jesus is highly regarded as a prophet" in Islam, one of the five top prophets, Awad said. Islam teaches that Allah, or God, did not have children, he said.
"He begets not, nor is he begotten," Awad said. Worshipping Jesus would be a violation of monotheism, that there is only one God, he said. "The creator is the one who is worthy of worship, not the creatures," Awad said.
"This is a small misunderstanding of the Trinity," replied Steve Cowan, associate professor of philosophy and apologetics at Southeastern Bible College. "There is one and only one God. The difference is between trinitarianism and unitarianism. We're all monotheists."
 Christians believe that God has "multiple personalities": God the creator, Jesus the son and the Holy Spirit, Cowan said.
Muslim and Christian speakers also differed on original sin. "Our belief is no one is good," Cowan said. "We are in fact slaves to sin because of our evil desires."
Awad said Islam rejects that. "In Islam, you are born without sin," he said. "Adams' sin, that is Adam's sin. He dealt with it. God forgave him. We are not evil as a human being. We are born good."
Speakers also differed on salvation, with evangelical Christians saying salvation is by faith in Jesus, while Muslims said good works would be taken into account along with belief.
"Good deeds are to train a good heart," said Muslim speaker Kendrick White. "Allah also looks at what's going on in the heart."
Good works matter, Awad said. "The ultimate justice of God is to reward people accordingly," he said. "Some people will be at a higher place in paradise."
Salvation by faith does not mean that once someone accepts Jesus, he can continue to live sinfully, Cowan said. "Christians do not believe a person can be saved and then behave any way he wants to," he said. "He will be a repentant person. When he sins, the Holy Spirit reveals that to him and he repents. A person who lives in unrepentant sin, that person's not saved and will go to hell."
The conference, organized by the Apologetics Resource Center, began Friday night and concluded today at 3 p.m.