Why ISIS Cannot Win

November 23, 2015 at 5:15 am 4 comments


Credit: Yann Caradec | Flickr

When I drove into work last week, I noticed our flags flying half-staff. Our red, white, and blue was lowered in honor of France’s blue, white, and red and those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks of two Fridays ago.

Of course, it didn’t take long for these attacks to ignite plenty of red-hot political and geopolitical wrangling. As it turns out, one of the ISIS terrorists allegedly masqueraded as a Syrian refugee to gain entry into France. This begs the question: should Western countries – including the United States – continue to grant asylum to these refugees when their ranks could be infiltrated by ISIS operatives? Then there is the question of how to address ISIS as an organization. French President Francois Hollande declared that “France is at war,” explaining, “Terrorism will not destroy France, because France will destroy it.”

All of this has spawned an understandable – and also predictable – reaction from many across this country and across the world: fear. Even children are afraid. The touching video that has gone viral showing a father allaying his son’s fears in the wake of the deadly attacks demonstrate just how pervasive the emotional devastation has become. People are scared. They want to know: are ISIS operatives planning an attack against this country? Just how powerful is ISIS? What can be done to prevent ISIS from attacking again? What will happen next?

I cannot answer what will happen next with ISIS. I wish I could. I wish I could say that all future ISIS attacks will be thwarted. That is certainly my prayer. But I cannot make it my prediction. But even though I cannot predict what is next for ISIS, I can be sure of what is last for ISIS. What’s last for ISIS is defeat. Of this I am confident.

I am confident of this for two reasons.

First, ISIS is a sectarian actor and sectarian actors, historically, tend not to thrive. ISIS doctrine requires that:

All Muslims must associate exclusively with fellow “true” Muslims and dissociate from anyone not fitting this narrow definition; failure to rule in accordance with God’s law constitutes unbelief; fighting the Islamic State is tantamount to apostasy; all Shi‘a Muslims are apostates deserving of death; and the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are traitors against Islam because they compromise with the non-caliphate political process (e.g., democracy).[1]

In short, ISIS believes that anyone who is not part of its cloistered caliphate is not only not a real Muslim, but not even worthy of life. This would be tantamount to Presbyterians wanting to destroy Baptists. This is the ultimate case study in sectarian insanity.

Certainly, Christianity has its own share of hate-filled sectarian groups. The Westboro Baptist Church comes to mind. Historically, Christian sects like the Encratites and the Docetists were rejected because of their abysmal doctrine. Considering ISIS endorses and outright enshrines ritual rape while the rest of the Muslim world stands steadfast on sexual purity, it is not difficult to see how ISIS is not only doctrinally aberrant even among Muslims, but humanitarianly repugnant. And doctrinally aberrant sects tend to collapse – or, at the very least, remain severely segregated – under the weight of their own idiosyncrasies and offensiveness. ISIS may be growing – for now – but sectarian doctrine and practice is not a recipe for longevity or continued growth.

Second, I do not think ISIS will last because of what I believe as a Christian. When Joshua is preparing to go to war against the kings of northern Canaan, God gives to him a curious command: “You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots” (Joshua 11:6). Strategically, this does not seem smart. Wouldn’t horses and chariots be helpful for future battles? Aren’t these the kinds of weapons that could benefit Israel’s national security?

God commands Joshua to destroy these tools of war to remind him that it is not he and Israel that will gain victories as they march into the Promised Land, but the Lord. He is the one who is fighting for Israel. No horses or chariots are needed.

ISIS fights with rifles, suicide bombs, and IED’s. But they cannot win, just like the people of Canaan could not win. Why? Because they are fighting the wrong battle using the wrong weapons. They are fighting for a false faith – even by most Muslim standards – with despicably deployed terrorizing weapons of war. As Christians, however, we fight for the true faith using divinely distributed saving weapons of war. ISIS may have a roadside bomb. But we have the sword of the Spirit (cf. Ephesians 6:17). And the sword of the Spirit trumps a terrorist’s bomb every time.

ISIS may manage to pull off some attacks here and there, but they will not last. Because they cannot last. God has promised otherwise.

And so, ISIS needs to be put on notice: there is coming a day when swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears will be forged into pruning hooks (cf. Isaiah 2:4). There is coming a day when your weapons will no longer terrorize nations because your weapons will no longer be around. But the Spirit’s sword will continue to stand.

So, as Christians, let’s stick with that weapon. And let’s find our comfort and confidence in that weapon. After all, it’s a guaranteed winner.


[1] Joe Carter, “9 Things You Should Know About Islamic State,” The Gospel Coalition (11.14.2015).

Entry filed under: Current Trends. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

How Starbucks (Didn’t) Steal Christmas Happy Thanksgiving!

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jim Kent  |  November 23, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    Thank you once again for the Biblically driven response to the world’s events. I appreciate your thoughtful comments. I’ve passed them along in my “Prayers of the People,” Bible Studies, and conversations with members of my church. Thank you again.

  • 2. Don Novian  |  November 23, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    Pastor Zach, You again hit the nail on the head; for ISIS is another of the devil’s tools and Jesus and the Cross will in the end prevail. Thanks again for this Christ-centered message.

  • 3. Mona  |  November 24, 2015 at 8:50 am

    This is a terrific blog, Pastor. Our God is a Mighty God! Amen!

  • 4. valentin10  |  November 24, 2015 at 11:44 am

    Reblogged this on Mon site officiel / My official website and commented:
    Great post !


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Follow Zach

Enter your email address to subscribe to Pastor Zach's blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,141 other subscribers

%d bloggers like this: