Every so often, we encounter true joy, whether it be the intense feeling of love for another human that we experience just after his or her birth or a flash of intense colors and brightness while walking along a nature path, we know this feeling is different and very special, perhaps even other worldly.
C.S. Lewis had much to say about joy. He spent his life in a constant quest for the type of joy that was beyond this life. He once said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”[i]
Perhaps these glimpses of joy are other worldly. Perhaps they are God’s way of demonstrating His presence. Perhaps they provide us with a tiny glimpse of heaven. Even if one doesn’t buy those arguments, such experiences may ignite curiosity and the desire to increase their frequency. If we associate those feelings of joy with God, then our natural response may be an increased passion and desire to learn more about God. We may desire to walk with Him, personally.
But can we walk personally with God? Is that a possibility? According to the Christian faith, the answer is a resounding YES. Several Bible verses lead us to this conclusion.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
“He has made it clear to you, mortal man, what is good and what the Lord is requiring from you— to act with justice, to treasure the Lord’s gracious love, and to walk humbly in the company of your God.” Micah 6:8
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 8:12
Throughout the centuries, many men and women have experienced the innate need for a God who can help them to understand the wonders of the world – and the world around them, more generally. Major world religions have sometimes grown from these desires. Those seeking to explain their spiritual experiences and tiny glimpses of joy may have developed deities or faiths or belief systems to help explain same. All but one of these deities are aloof, transcendent, and/or passive. The deity in which God does not have these qualities is the Judeo-Christian God. The Judeo-Christian God wants a personal relationship with humanity. The Judeo-Christian God was not created by man. Christianity was created for man, by God.
Hindu pantheism identifies God with the universe, or the universe to be a manifestation of God. What this means is that Hindu pantheists consider God to be a part of creation, rather than its creator. God is everywhere as a passive part of nature, neither good nor evil, yet beyond both.
Buddhism is not pantheistic in that it doesn’t identify God with the universe in a passive way. Buddhism focuses on enlightenment, which is absolute and transcendent, yet not personal.
Allah, the God of the Muslims, is remote, lofty, and impersonal. According to Muslim theologian Ismail al Faruqi, “Allah does not reveal himself to anyone in any way. Allah reveals only his will…Allah does not reveal himself to anyone…that is the great difference between Christianity and Islam.”[ii]
After pondering these points for a while, and while watching a delightful video in which a Muslim man encountered Jesus and converted to Christianity, I wondered whether any Muslims claim to have seen Allah in visions, dreams, or more personally.
On Twitter, I identified a few atheists whom I challenged to find testimonies from Muslims who have encountered Allah. The atheists to whom I posed this challenge were particularly hostile towards the Bible and Christianity. One, the son of a pastor, often claimed that the only reason I chose to be a Christian was because I was born into a nation of mainly Christians. He said that I would be a Muslim if born into the Muslim world. I have always countered that assertion by saying that while seeking Allah, I would have found Jesus. Jesus is the finest example of servant leadership known to man. Plus, I have my own testimonials of encounters with Jesus. He told me that his “Muslim friends” have their own testimonies too, to which I responded that they must not have been very convincing, given his choice to remain an atheist. So, the challenge was posed. After a long day of waiting for Muslim testimonials of Allah encounters, the atheists provided nothing. I ran my own Google search for encounters with Allah and I also found none. I also ran a similar Google search for encounters with Jesus and found quite a few.
And that made me smile.
[i] Lewis, C.S. (2002) Mere Christianity, New York: Harper One.
[ii] Al Faruqi, I. (1982). Christian Mission and Islamic Da’wah: Proceedings of the Chambesy Diologue Consultation, Leicester: The Islamic Foundation, 47-48.