What can the gospel teach us about defeating militant Islam?
The recent spate of Islamic State sponsored attacks has again thrust the militant group onto the world stage. While military and intelligence forces attempt to stop their physical movements and financial strength, it is apparent that it takes more to stop an ideology.
This is the first in a series of articles that explores this topic. By comparing the gospel with militant Islam I want to highlight the differences in ideology.
The two great battles
Two Christian warriors from church history, Augustine and Luther, both wrote about the two great battles we face. The greater battle, they say, is within: with sin, our self-focused thoughts and submitting to Jesus rather than our self.
The lesser battle is against those who oppose the faith. And while militant Islam has a similar concept of an inner and outer battle, Christianity is different in that it "fights" and wins, not by its own efforts but through what Jesus has done. Let me explain the Christian view of these two battles before comparing it to militant Islam.
The inner battle
The gospel message is this inner battle. "Gospel" is a word that describes the good news that we are no longer at war with God. We have now been reconciled to Him through Jesus. This battle of the sinful nature is what Paul describes in saying that while we were still sinners Christ died for us (Romans chapter 5 verse 8).
We are no longer captive to sin and subject to its wage: death. And while we still might ignore God, the punishment has been paid in full and we are set free from its result. This battle has been won by Jesus. You really have to read 1 Corinthians chapter 15 to see this. It is brilliant! The point is, Jesus has won the inner battle for us by taking away the penalty.
The outer battle
The secret to understanding the outer battle is seeing it through the lens of the inner battle. This theme is developed throughout the typology of the Old Testament. We see the "Lord of Hosts" (literally, Lord of Armies) would command and go before His people to win the victory. Every battle you read about in the Old Testament has this key theme of the Lord defeating those that opposed Him and His vision.
And this vision was laid out in three promises (Genesis chapter 12): for His people to find rest, be numerous and be a blessing to the nations. In the Old Testament, this covenant was first expressed throughphysical battles to establish a holy land for His people.
Ultimately, these outer battle themes are moving towards the inner battle won by Jesus. Jesus is the fulfilment of true rest: peace with God (Romans chapter 5 verse 1). Jesus is the fulfilment of the great multitude of His people (the Church) too numerous to count (Revelation chapter 7 verse 9 and 10). And Jesus is the fulfilment of that greatest blessing to all nations (Galatians chapter 3 verse 14).
The point is, all those outer battles in the Old Testament point towards Jesus. What He did was win the inner battle to bring us peace with God. From this position, we see victory also in the outer battle to defeat all powers that oppose this love and grace.
Militant Islamic ideology has none of this. They wage war for their god. This war, they explain, helps earn their peace with God. There is no covenant. No typology. No hope for justice. No full expression of love. In summary, no Jesus.
Problem solved, battle won
The Bible, in contrast, explains that Jesus has fought and already won the greatest battle against sin and death. And He has done this on behalf of His people – problem solved, battle won.
This is something Islamic State are still striving for in their own power. They are trying to bring about a kingdom of god through their attacks. Their battle is futile.
The war has already been won. Jesus has already proclaimed that the Kingdom is here through His incarnation, atoning death and victorious resurrection. The result is there is no condemnation for those that come to Jesus. And we wait with a certain hope for the consumption of His Kingdom.
Governments need to work hard to battle against militant Islam and its ideology. But we know that it is a battle already won and no gates can prevail against it. In next month's article I want to explore what church history can teach us about weakening Islamic State.
Jeremy Dover is a former sports scientist and Pastor
Jeremy Dover's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jeremy-dover.html