Reza Aslan’s Interview on Fox and his new book Zealot!

An interview on Fox News of Reza Aslan and his new book Zealot has received numerous social media posts recently.  Here is a copy of the interview that currently has over 2 million views:

The interviewer is slammed for asking him again and again why he is writing this book as a Muslim.  I think Reza’s answers could have been much better, but the interviewer just keeps asking the same question again and again and it gets nowhere and we don’t get to learn much of what Reza actually believes concerning the life of Jesus.

What stood out the most to me in the interview is that Reza states that it is a fundamental truth that everyone agrees that Jesus was crucified, but that’s not the Muslim belief and teaching of Islam as he also states! Reza must mean that every historian believes Jesus was crucified.

Why do Muslims believe Jesus wasn’t crucified?  Sura 4:157-158 clearly states that he wasn’t.  These two verses read:

“That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not -Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.”

This leads me to believe that Reza is a very liberal Muslim.  It even makes me think that he isn’t Muslim at all to so openly deny a teaching of the Qur’an like this.  However, I was told that there were different Muslim interpretations on this passage.  I however don’t think that Jesus actually being crucified was one of them.  Some Muslim scholars believe that Jesus never died and others believe that he died of natural causes, but which Muslim scholar besides Reza believes that Jesus was crucified.

Before Reza I have only read Muslim teachers and Muslims I have spoken with to hold to the interpretation that Jesus did not die, at all! According to Adil Salahi who wrote on this topic on says that there are two views within Islam. He writes:

“The first, which is held by a majority of scholars, is that Jesus Christ did not die but was raised by Allah and that he will make a second coming at a time determined by Allah, when he will be preaching the message of Islam. The other view is that Jesus Christ died a natural death after Allah had saved him from his enemies. Both groups of scholars agree that Jesus Christ was neither killed nor crucified. Needless to say, those who subscribe to the second view do not speak of a second coming of Jesus Christ.” (

It appears as if Reza has an interpretation which does not fit with the interpretations of mainstream Muslim scholars on the teachings of the Qur’an and the Hadiths, so I’m very interested to read his book to see where else he skews not only on orthodox Islam but also Christianity. I wish the interviewer allowed him to get into such things, but it would have been nice if he had answered her question in a better fashion by just saying, “As a Muslim, I’m very deeply concerned with and interested in the person and history of Jesus (peace be upon him) because there is more in the Qur’an about Jesus (peace be upon him) than Muhammad (peace be upon him) and since the teachings of Christianity contradict the teachings in the Qur’an I have every right and interest as a religious scholar, Muslim, or any person interested in seeking religious and historical truth to research the life of Jesus.” I think if he had answered in such a way it would have shut down her stupid string of questions. She clearly is very ignorant on the subject of religious studies and the desire that any religious adherent should have in researching the claims of religions other than their own.

If Reza and other Muslim scholars are beginning to say that Jesus was crucified then it seems like a direct leave from the direct statements of Sura 4:157-158. I see where there is room for Jesus to have died a natural death in that passage, but there is clearly no room given for him to have died by crucifixion. I have never met a Muslim who has read the Qur’an to say that Jesus died of natural causes, much less that he was crucified, and these were leaders of Muslim unions on college campuses and teachers from who I invited to my world religions class to speak. You can check out their website and they very clearly state that Jesus did not die! ( They leave no room for any other interpretation. I’m afraid to say that Reza doesn’t seem very reliable as a Muslim theologian.

What about those born into other religions? Isn’t God playing favorites?

What about those born into other religions?  Isn’t God playing favorites?

English: Richard Dawkins giving a lecture base...
English: Richard Dawkins giving a lecture based on his book, The God Delusion, in Reykjavik (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


This is a common argument that comes up quite a lot by people who reject the Christian faith because of exclusivity of salvation as being by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Usually, the argument is thrown out to people who grew up in predominantly Christian regions of the world.  Outspoken Atheist, Richard Dawkins refers to this situation as the result of “childhood indoctrination.”  In the Preface of his best-selling book, The God Delusion, Dawkins writes:

If you feel trapped in the religion of your upbringing, it would be worth asking yourself how this came about.  The answer is usually some form of childhood indoctrination.  If you are religious at all it is overwhelmingly probable that your religion is that of your parents.  If you were born in Arkansas and you think Christianity is true and Islam false, knowing full well that you would think the opposite if you had been born in Afghanistan, you are the victim of childhood indoctrination.

Sadly, Dawkins is likely correct for many religious adherents.  Many people would attest that their faith is the result of their upbringing and they don’t have any answers to share to back up their faith besides pointing to the claims of their religious texts (Christians – the Bible is true because it says it is true) or their subjective experience during prayer (Mormons – just pray and you’ll feel the burning in your bosom that Mormonism is true).  I know my faith is a product of my upbringing, and I don’t deny it.  However, I and many other Christians point outside of our experience to observable evidence such as the fine-tuning of the universe for life on earth for the existence of God and we then point to the historical evidence of the person of Jesus Christ.  The Christian faith is grounded in history and the authors of the New Testament pain-mistakenly made efforts to ensure their accounts portray this fact.  You can sift through this blog more to find answers to back-up the validity of the Christian faith via historical examination, but I want to address this question from a different angle.  Since “child indoctrination” doesn’t apply to everyone who is a Christian, or follower of another faith, I think the complaint of Dawkins can be boiled down to fairness.  If God is real and a correct understanding and truth about him and trust in him are key components of salvation, it’s not fair that some are born in positions where they likely will become adherents of the WRONG religion.  Since this doesn’t seem fair, then God must not exist, because God must be fair.

As I have answered previous questions from time to time, here I go again with a statement of validation, Socratic style answering, a straight answer, and Scripture to back up the answer.


I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking that I’m a Christian, because I grew up in a Christian family, a Christian culture, that if I grew up in Turkey, I’d likely be a Muslim, or that if I grew up in India, I’d probably be a Hindu.  I’d agree with you; it’s not always the case, but more often than not we are often a product of our environment.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as the saying goes.  It seems as if God is playing favorites, since some people are born into lives that appear to be more fertile to having a relationship with him.

Socratic Method:

“How is it playing favorites, if Jesus died to take away the sins of all people?”

“Is it really playing favorites, if we are all sinful and deserving of condemnation?  For God to remain just and not overlook lawlessness, he had to send his one and only Son, Jesus Christ to die as a substitutionary sacrifice.  Does God have to go through such pain and suffering, considering we are all guilty of sin?  Shouldn’t we be fortunate that he has paved a way for us to have salvation?”

“Where do you stand in the so-called “favorites” ranking?  Have you heard the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ?”


The Bible is very clear that God does not show favoritism. He is the savior of all men.  Jesus’ last words to his disciples before ascending to heaven were commands that they should make disciples of all nations.  (Matthew 28:18-20)  He even promised that it would happen and that the disciples would receive power through the Holy Spirit to accomplish that feat.  (Acts 1:7-8)  It is clear in Scripture that people from all races, nations, and tongues will have salvation and be with God in heaven.  This is already evident now if you look on a map of the spread of religions.  Christianity is the only religion that is diverse enough to have spread across the globe, breaking through all sorts of barriers of language, culture, ethnicity, and lines of nationality.  Jesus even promised that the end would not come until the Gospel has been preached to all nations.  (Matthew 24:14)  It is clear that Jesus does not show favorites due to place of birth.


Galatians 3:26-29 – “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Revelation 7:9 – “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.”

Acts 10:34 – “Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.”

Romans 6:23 Journals from High School Students

Romans 6

One of our school’s 60 memory verses is Romans 6:23.  For the day we were looking at this verse, the assignment was to read Romans 6:23 in context.  I let them students pick if they wanted to read the whole chapter, or just read some of the verses preceding and following it.  The prompt was to write a reflective journal on their reading.  They could write if reading Romans 6:23 in context added any additional meaning to the verse for them.  They all had study bibles and I shared that if a verse or section stood out to them or led them to have questions, that they could read the footnotes and share what they learned.  I also prompted them to consider looking up cross-references for verses that they wanted to learn more about.  Finally, I gave the option of making an application journal, writing law and gospel applications for their lives, a practice we did with the memory verses last year.  Here are a few of the journal posts from one of my classes:

1.)  Romans 6:23 in context is a closing statement to, in my opinion, an excellent essay on the meaning of Christianity; that we, being saved, are to go on sinning no more. I believe Paul, who wrote it, makes an excellent case that having been saved by grace we are to go on living no more in sin but accept righteousness, as exemplified by his question, “how can a man live in his death?”

I also believe it makes an excellent case for the Reformed theology as well. As we were slaves to sin, we are now counted as “slaves to righteousness”; irresistible grace. It also offers a strong caution against those who proclaim that because they are saved, they may live on in the way they had, like adulterers, homosexuals and addicts; “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God.”

We should look to this passage and this chapter as a guideline for our Christianity. Do we aspire to conquer our sin, or do we continue to be mastered by our own humanity?


2.) I think Romans chapter 6 is somewhat of a downer. It says that we use to be slaves to sin and that now we basically should be happy because we are now slaves to another master; righteousness. I think it would be better described not as slavery, because in my opinion that is not really what being righteous is. But, Romans 6:23 makes me feel a lot better because that righteousness is a gift, and not a form of slavery, and I think that is a better way to portray it; a gift of eternal life from Jesus Christ, and not a form of slavery.


3.)  Death to Sin, Alive in Christ

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too many life a new life.” The verse says it all. We are given new life because Christ had died for us. “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” We don’t have to earn it; we just have to have faith.
Slaves to Righteousness
“Whether you are slaves to sin which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, through you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted…When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.” God has freed us from the control from righteousness. We were once slaves to sin but God had saved us. There are so many verses in the Bible that tell us how if we sin, and do not have faith in God, we are not saved. But if we have the gift of God, which is salvation, it is by faith we are saved. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
How can one believe that we have to do good works to get to heaven? It is right here in the bible. God is telling us we are saved through faith. It is a gift. We do not have to earn it. “The gift of God is eternal life…” It says it is a gift. We do not have to earn this gift. It also says that the wages of sin is death. If we do not let God take control or have faith in him and know he is forgiving, then we will not be dead forever.


4.)  Proverbs 10:16 “The wages of the righteous bring them life, but the income of the wicked brings them punishment.” Proverbs 10:16 and Romans 6:23 are parallel verses with the same meaning. They are both talking about how we deserve death for our sin, but we are saved by the righteousness of God. I liked Romans 6: 21 which says: “What benefit did you reap at the time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!” I liked this verse because it’s pointing out how useless the things of this earth our, and how our sinful desires bring us nothing but death in the long run.


5.)  I really like verse 19.
“I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.”

I like when it says “I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves.” It shows that we are sinful and cannot even begin to understand God’s love for us and how much we mean to him even though we are all terrible people.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
That is our verse and it shows perfectly matching with the verse I liked earlier in the chapter, that we are sinful but God saves us always.


6.)   The passage is talking about how weak we are as humans. We are enslaved to sin and those sins that we have committed had maybe felt good at the time, but in the end they result in death. It then says that now we have been freed from sin and are of God now and instead of death, we will reap holiness. We are dead in our sins, but through Jesus Christ, we are set free and have the hope of eternal life, and that is so comforting. Knowing that I am dead in my sins and alive in Christ gives me hope that I can get through life and enter into Heaven and leave this sin behind. I think 6:23 points us to our baptism. We lay down in death with Jesus, but resurrect with him when we come out of the water. When we are baptized, we are clothed in his righteousness and are made holy in God’s eyes, which is what this chapter is talking about. I looked up cross-references in Matthew and Ezekiel, and they both talk about being dead, but having eternal life. It’s amazing to see this concept throughout the Bible, even in the Old Testament.




7.)  Romans 6 is all about slavery concerning if you are a slave to sin or to righteousness. You’re either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. If you are a slave to something or someone that means you obey them, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey-…” If we are slave to sin we inherit death but if we are slaves to righteousness we inherit life, “The wages of the righteous bring them life, but the income of the wicked brings them punishment.” Proverbs 10:16