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Showing posts from April, 2007

The Arabic Language and Philosophy

A brilliant quote from here:

"In modern analytical philosophy, there is hardly anything in
Arabic or any other Islamic tongue. Philosophical discussion is best
conducted in English. Owing to the grammatical limitations of
Arabic, it is impossible to express most philosophical claims with an
acceptable degree of rigour and clarity. Moreover Arabic is a
devotional language lacking the vocabulary requisite for detached
discussion of controversial matters."

Muslim philosopher, Shabbir Akhtar who taught at the International
Islamic University in Malaysia

Interpretation and the Quran

The doctrine of the infallibility of the consensus, far
from allowing some liberty of reasoning as one might have expected,
worked in favour of a progressive narrowing and hardening of doctrine.
By the beginning of 900 C.E., Islamic Law became rigidly fixed because
Muslim scholars felt that all essential questions had been thoroughly
discussed and finally settled, and a consensus gradually established
itself to the effect that henceforth no one might be deemed to have
the necessary qualifications for independent reasoning in law, and
that all future activity would have to be confined to the explanation,
application, and, at most, interpretation of the doctrine as it had
been laid down once and for all. This closing of the gate of
independent reasoning, in effect, meant the unquestioning acceptance
of the doctrines of established schools and authorities. Islamic Law
became increasingly rigid and set in its final mould.Ibn Warraq. From Islam-watch

Great article for those who think that the Quran and…

Modern Muslima on Christian Missionaries

Modern Muslima is a a magazine for Modern Muslim women (Muslima is the Arabic word for a female Muslim). I enjoyed reading this article because it shows how Muslims, in particular here, how Muslim women, are taught to respond to Christian missionaries.

The article starts off with some interesting information about the acculturation chart. It is explained fairly well and the folks at Modern Muslima seem particularly alarmed about C5 missionaries, and perhaps C4 missionaries as well.

Last night I hung out with three friends of mine and we played Risk (I won, alhamdulillah, with a last minute sweep through Asia) and we discussed these questions. Not one of us thought that C5 was appropriate or healthy, or, as this article mentions, honest. So there we are in agreement.

I will take issue with one of the topics raised: Muslims are told that when engaged with questions about the Quran or Islam to send the person to a local imam. I am sorry but that just seems like intellectual and spiritual …

Hopes for Democracy Fade in Saudi

Democracy and Islam are mutually exclusive. While some have tried to justify the combination of the two ideologies I think it is, in the long term impossible.

Islam brings together all power and sovereignty and is unable to understand or implement the division of power that comes with democratic government. To divide power among groups or individuals (democracy), or to even attempt to separate in any genuine or significant way the religious from the civil is to divide power. And to divide power is to divide God.

Note how this differs from the Trinitarian understanding of Christianity, and the example of Jesus who in fact confers great power upon his Apostles: "What you bind on earth will be bound in heaven..." Yet this power clearly does not extend to any form of explicit governance beyond the Kingdom of God.

Most significantly, to divide power is to violate the example of Muhammad who accumulated for himself in a radical way every possible spehere of influence and exercise of…

Links on the Islamification of Europe

Will Sweden Establish a Muslim Region?

Critic of Islam in Norway Assaulted

I do want to note that the website linked above is not Christian, so the tone of the remarks is rather angry and not charitable. It also does not see the clash of Christendom and Islamdom through the eyes of faith. But I think the stories nevertheless contain some interesting info, they are both short.

More on the Martyrs in Turkey

From my Christian friend in Turkey. A little long, and some parts have been removed, and a few names too, but overall a very important story. Especially see the part at the bottom about the future of the Christian mission to Turkey (in bold):

Dear brothers and sisters,
We would like to give you an update about what
happened last Wednesday (18 April 2007) in Malatya,
Turkey.

As you know last Wednesday five young people killed
our three brothers. They didn’t only slit their
throats but they tortured them almost two and a half
hours. Two killers first became friends with our
brothers. They said they became Christians and they
even went out to give out free New Testaments on the
streets with them. They also joined the Easter service
in Malatya. Last Wednesday morning they went to the
office and began to chat with our friends. Then three
other men came to the office and the tragedy began
after that. They had pistols and knives and threatened
them and then bound their hands and feet. They put
gags in the…

Islamdom Rising in Indonesia

"But there is also fear that the global rise of militant fundamentalism has begun to change Indonesia. With democracy’s arrival, radical Islamists were allowed to return from exile, where the former military government had sent them. That was followed by the terrorist bombing of a nightclub on the predominantly Hindu island of Bali in 2002, in which 200 people died, then by other bombings in Jakarta and Bali, again. The government says it has seriously weakened Jemaah Islamiyah, a terrorism network blamed for those attacks. But the Islamic Defenders Front, less lethal but more numerous, still vandalizes bars and discos in Jakarta and beats up their patrons, trying to force the businesses to close."Meanwhile, Islamic observance has turned more conservative. Many more women wear the veil. And Islamic political parties have gained strength by arguing that they can do something about Indonesia’s endemic corruption and violence."
From the NYT

An Islamic View of Muhammad

He is entirely different from the people among whom he is born and with whom he spends his youth and early manhood. He never tells a lie. The whole nation is unanimous in testifying to his truthfulness. . . . He is the very embodiment of modesty in the midst of a society which is immodest to the core. . . . He helps the orphans and the widows. He is hospitable to travelers. He harms no one . . . [He] is such a lover of peace that his heart melts for the people when they take up arms and cut each other’s throats. . . . In brief, the towering and radiant personality of this man, in the midst of such a corrupted and dark environment, may be likened to a beacon-light brightening a pitch-dark night or to a diamond in a heap of dead stones. . . . [After he begins to deliver the message of Islam the] ignorant nation turns against him. Abuses and stones are showered at his august person. Every conceivable torture and cruelty is perpetrated upon him. . . . Can anyone ever…

Arabs for Christ

This is a great website. It has information on the various countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and it has a message board, so you can post questions on there or contribute to an ongoing discussion.

Arabs for Christ

And the message board:

Forum (Message Board)

The person who runs this site was in my country several months ago and with some other folks we did a prayer walk around the largest mosque in the city. It was a blessing.

The Quran-Only Movement

There is a movement in Islam and to be honest I find it highly encouraging. It is the 'Quran Only' movement, and it seeks to shed the influence of the hadiith about Muhammad's life. This is a very good thing. The Quran contains so many different kinds of statements that it can be--with difficulty mind you--interpreted in such a way that it respects human rights to a much greater degree than Islam does in general today.

But just as Christians interpret the Bible through the lens of the Nicene Creed, or the Reformation debates about justification, or what have you, Muslims have (almost) always interpreted the Quran through the lens of the hadiith about Muhammad's life. And that life, unfortunately, was quite bloody and characterized by aggression.

But here is a link to a website of a man who espouses the Quran-only version of Islam. It is a small movement but I hope to grows. Here he is talking about Islam and terrorism, specifically 9/11.

A final note: One of the main thin…

When Murder is Legal in Iran

"Iran's Islamic penal code, a parallel system to its civic code, says murder charges can be dropped if the accused can prove the killing was done because the victim was morally corrupt."This is true even if the killer mistakenly identified the victim as corrupt. In that case, the law requires "blood money" to be paid to the family. Every year in Iran, a senior cleric determines the amount of blood money required in such cases. This year it is $40,000 if the victim is a Muslim man, and half that for a Muslim woman or a non-Muslim."
From IHT

When I say 'Catholic' I mean...

'Catholic' is a Latin word and it simply means 'universal.' When we confess that we believe in 'one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,' what we mean is what Sharon is describing in her blog:

And what did the three of us get up to sitting at that kitchen table? Well, we just prayed together; one in Arabic, one in Chinese and one in English, and to be honest, my skin prickled at the realization that we three, so different in our appearance, cultures and tongues, are One in Christ. We all have different stories of faith, different ways in which we came to belong to Him, but the same joy of salvation and love of one another in our hearts.From Running the Race

The Prophet: Married Aisha at Age Six; Sex at Nine

Here is a good link. Let me tell you all how impressed I am by the work of answering-islam.org. It is, in my opinion, the single best website for Muslim apologetics on the entire web. There are other great sites (especially islamiyat in Arabic), but there is nothing quite like answering-islam.org.

Here are a number of references to the fact that Muhammad married Aisha when she was six, and had sex with her when she was nine year old. For example:

Narrated Aisha:
The Prophet engaged me when I was a girl of six (years). We went to Medina and stayed at the home of Bani-al-Harith bin Khazraj. Then I got ill and my hair fell down. Later on my hair grew (again) and my mother, Um Ruman, came to me while I was playing in a swing with some of my girl friends. She called me, and I went to her, not knowing what she wanted to do to me. She caught me by the hand and made me stand at the door of the house. I was breathless then, and when my breathing became all right, she took some water…

Three Martyrs in Turkey

Just received this e-mail from a pastor in Turkey (a former Muslim actually). Tertullian said, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church."

I think of people like Saint Polycarp who praised God at his martyrdom, that he had been deemed worthy by God's grace to die for the sake of the Gospel.

I think of Saint Peter who told the Romans to crucify him upside down,
since he was not worthy to die in the same fashion as his Lord.

I think of the Holy Innocents who died though they did not know their right hand from their left.

I think of Saint Ahmad (an Orthodox saint), a Turk who bought a Christian slave woman at the market. Over time he was so taken by her compassion and serenity that
he asked her how she, a slave, had obtained what he, a powerful Ottoman
ruler, did not have. She told him. He accepted the Gospel and believed
in the Lord. He told his superior who applied Ottoman law which said
that Muslim apostates must die, and so he died.

Here is his e-mail:

Urgent..

This after…

In Whose Name have you Come?

Something I wrote to a Muslim friend, part of a much larger apologetic work.



Dear Abed,



Peace be with you.



Now when a man and a woman are married to each other in the mystery of the Crowns, as it is called in the East, or in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, as we call it in the West, they become one flesh before God. In the same way, though we are sinful and enemies of God, though we bring shame upon him by our ignorance and disobedience, we may be saved by being united to the Messiah. For Noah’s whole family was saved from God’s judgment upon the whole earth; but Noah alone among them was righteous. And when God wanted to destroy the tribes of Jacob, Moses who alone among them was humble, and he interceded before God, and God relented. He relented for the sake of this one man who was humble and who was a friend of God. And when the first apostles (mursaliin or hawarriyuun) of Jesus went to the pagans, they found a God-fearing man name Cornelius. Cornelius believed in the Gospel, but his…

Easter Sermon from Bp. Mouneer Anis

He is the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Egypt, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa. There is a dearth of good leadership in the Christian community in this region, but he is, in my view, one of the few excellent leaders among the Protestant/evangelical community. From Here.

Resurrection of Christ frees us from hatredToday as we remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I would like to meditate on the words of Apostle Paul to the church in Rome;‘For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his’ Romans 6:5These words are very difficult to understand. How can we unite with Christ in a death like his and how we can we unite with Him in his resurrection? We learn from the history of ancient Egypt that when a Noble of the first Dynasty died, all of his slaves would be killed and buried with him so that they can serve him in his second life. Later on, this harsh custom stopped and the Ancient Egyptians were conte…

The Good Way

Interesting website here, called The Good Way. Written and administered by a former Muslim. He has written what amounts to a short biography which is really amazing. You see all the elements that went into his conversion, from the kind and quiet witness of two Christian nurses (were they nuns? I am curious), to a vision of brilliant, protective light around a poor Christian family which he had decided to execute for not being Muslims. His conversion occurred over many years. Like most Muslims he returned again and again to Islam in its various forms trying to find answers and peace. He failed, and in the end embraced the Gospel.

There is much other information on the website. Please check it out at the-good-way.com

About the use of the word 'Allah'

A friend recently asked about how I viewed the use of the word 'Allah' instead of 'God' when discussing religion with Muslims. Here is my (slightly edited) answer:

Hello XXXXX,
How do I feel about using the word Allah?
As someone who speaks Arabic all the time I have no choice but to use Allah, and since it is the word used in the Bible, I don't see any problem with it. When I speak English I always use God. Do I object to using the word Allah in English? Not really, but it seems silly and like part of the general Islamic tendency to Arabicize everything. I mean, Islam is Arab culture, and the two can't be separated anymore (which makes it tough for Arab Christians).
Christianity adapts to its place and culture: From Orthodoxy in Russia to old school fundamentalism in Alabama, to Anglicanism mixed with Native American culture in Nunavut to pilgrimages to Mexico City to the Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico, to MBB's here kneeling towards Mecca as the…

The Parable of the Letter and the Son

"There was a king, and in his kingdom there were two cities that we having grave problems. One city sent a messenger to the king to ask for help. The king sat down and wrote a letter to the city and sent the messenger back.

"The other city sent a messenger to the king, and the king sent his son to that city to address the problems there. Which of these two cities has received the greater honor?"

I told this parable to a Muslim friend today, and here was his answer: the city that received the prince has received the greater honor. When he arrives he will see what the problems are and take immediate action; the people of the city cannot disobey him. The city that received the letter from the king--in that city maybe the mayor will read it and tear it up, or maybe he will read it and not take action right away.

I responded: and this is the difference between Islam and Christianity: we believe that the Word of God is a person, Muslims believe that the Word of God is a book.

The…

The Trinity and Love

From the April 2007 edition of First Things, Letters to the Editor:

...the nature and possibility of love is inextricably grounded in the Trinitarian nature of the God whom Christians profess. What I mean is the following: If it is true, as Christians and various other monotheists maintain, that God is a loving God, then somehow or other, love must be a characteristic of the essence of God apart from his relationship to anything outside himself defined as "creation." But if God is the purely monotheistic god of Jews, Muslims, deists, or monotheists of whatever stripe, then the only kind of love that could characterise the essence of such a god would be narcissism raised to the power of infinity.

In contrast, in the essence or internal life of the revealed Triune God, consisting of three distinct persons, fully sharing one nature, there are others for each to love and be loved by!

--Thomas J. Kleist
Wauwatosa, Wisconsin

The Future, according to the UK government

From the UK's government, a prospectus RE future trends:

The Middle EastThe massive population growth will mean the Middle East, and to a lesser extent north Africa, will remain highly unstable, says the report. It singles out Saudi Arabia, the most lucrative market for British arms, with unemployment levels of 20% and a "youth bulge" in a state whose population has risen from 7 million to 27 million since 1980. "The expectations of growing numbers of young people [in the whole region] many of whom will be confronted by the prospect of endemic unemployment ... are unlikely to be met," says the report.Islamic militancyResentment among young people in the face of unrepresentative regimes "will find outlets in political militancy, including radical political Islam whose concept of Umma, the global Islamic community, and resistance to capitalism may lie uneasily in an international system based on nation-states and global market forces", the report warns. …

St. John the Baptist and the Mandaeans

When we were in Denmark earlier this year I met a young man attending an Arabic-language Christian congregation. We spoke for a while and he explained that he was Mandaean, but awaiting Christian baptism. How am I supposed to feel about this as a Christian?

While they were in the midst of an Islamic country, I see them as brave and courageous. That they convert to Christianity after they leave for Sweden (or wherever) I see as the fulfillment of God's grace for them. That they resisted the temptations of converting to Islam was God's grace in their lives. That they now receive the fullness of the Christian faith is also his grace, and is, of course, the main point of Saint John the Baptist's preaching.

John the Baptist, I think, is much more central to the whole Gospel story than we give him credit for these days. Jesus said, "From the days of John the Baptist til now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it" (Mt 1…

Good Friday: The Suffering of God

Here is a profound reflection. It may seem short and concise, but there is much room for further reflection. I think that this bishop here very insightfully explains a fundamental difference between Islam and Christianity, and I love how he relates it to the Eucharist:

Like many Bishops I’m frequently asked to speak out against blasphemy and condemn outrageous portrayals of Jesus in the media. More often than not the point’s made that programme-makers would never dare do this to the prophet Mohammed, so why should they do it to Christ. Some go on to say that the fact that shows like Jerry Springer the Opera are staged and televised is because Christianity has lost its power and is no longer a force to be reckoned with in our society. Part of my reply is that I’ve no desire to give free publicity, but there is a deeper reason which I’ve discussed with my Muslim friends. In Islam the mocking of God is an intolerable offence. That’s why crowds fill the streets to demonstrate against every…

Liturgy: The Gospel written on the Body

Here is a great reflection from a friend of mine:

I will never forget hearing the story (it pains me that I was not present to witness this first hand) of when Carter - who at the time was just over a year old - was sitting in his high chair in between Allison and her mother at the dining room table for dinner and was motioning with his arm that he wanted to hold Allison's hand. She grabbed it and he then motioned to Lyn (Al's mom) for the same. After she responded in kind Carter bowed his head and kept it there.

It had not occurred to us until this moment that the simple practices of our lives (the repeated liturgy of our day that brought rhythm and order to our house and spoke of what we worshiped) had become an essential part of how Carter understood both himself and his world.

Read it all at Priests and Paramedics.

“Seven Stanzas at Easter” by John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that-pierced-died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light,…

Teacher Killed by Muslim Students

Image
NIGERIA
Teacher Killed by Muslim Students - Compass Direct News/VOM Sources

On March 21, 2007, Christianah Oluwasesin, a teacher at a secondary school in Northern Nigeria was beaten, stoned and burned by Muslim students over claims she desecrated the Quran. According to a Compass Direct News report, Oluwasesin was supervising a final examination on Islamic religious knowledge when she collected papers, books and bags from the all-girls class and in accordance with school procedure and dropped them in front of the class to prevent cheating. According to another teacher, soon after Oluwasesin dropped the bags in front of the class, one of the girls began to cry. She told her classmates she had a copy of the Quran in her bag, that Oluwasesin touched the bag and by doing so had desecrated the Quran, since she was a Christian. This led to a riot which was joined by Muslim extremists, resulting in Oluwasesin being beaten to death. They brought old mats to where her body was, placed dirt on h…

Palm Sunday by George Grant

Very nice explanation of what the image of palm means and the significance of the first day of Holy Week:

The palm tree and palm leaves appear again and again throughout the Bible as symbols of integrity, honor, righteousness, holiness, godly authority, and royal glory. The palm was used in the carved decorations of the temple, usually associated with the Cherubim, but also with the regal lion and the flower in full bloom. Indeed, the association of the palm with these ideas recurs more than three dozen times in the Scriptures. The blessing of the Lord is portrayed as “Like palm groves that stretch afar, like gardens beside a river, like aloes that the Lord has planted, like cedar trees beside the waters” (Numbers 24:6).

In addition though, throughout the entire ancient Near East the palm also had the common cultural connotation of refreshment and restoration. Waving palm tops along the horizon heralded the location of a desert oasis, a welcome stop for both camel and traveler. Palms p…

Challenges for Yemen

Great article here from the Arab American News on Yemen. Does a nice job just summarizing the challenges and difficulties confronting that nation now. If you have a Bible study group you can go down it like a list basically. One section:

Yemen is a country facing substantial problems. It is one of the most undeveloped, poverty stricken countries globally. Basic services are scarce, and corruption is rampant. Half of Yemen's 20 million citizens are under 15. High fertility rates and early marriage mean the population will double within decades. Oil, a mainstay of the economy, is rapidly depleting. Both illiteracy and unemployment are high. International donors and many within the Yemeni administration recognize the urgency of the issues facing the nation. However some governmental strategies are undermined from within the regime itself. Both water management and corruption mitigation efforts have been limited by the failure of ministries to coordinate among themselves.

Actions Speak Louder than Words

Great testimony from a Muslim-background believer. No dreams or miracles, just the witness of kindness and goodness of two solid, Christian families. He is from Arabia and like most Muslims was taught that Christians are generally evil and that Muslims should not befriend them (an explicit command in the Quran).

After living in the student dormitory for about a month, I began to feel the need to become more familiar with the culture and way of life in the country I am in. During that time I heard of a program that helps international students by teaming them up with families from this country in order to help the international students learn more about the culture and way of life. Little did I know that it was a Christian Ministry. So I signed up for it; a decision that would change the course of my life forever. Almost two weeks later, a young couple from the program contacted me and indicated that they were the family assigned to work with me. And for the next seven months, this fami…

Interview with Philip Jenkins

Philip Jenkins is one of my favorite authors and scholars. I have had the honor of meeting him personally, and his book The Next Christendom was monumental and is a must-read for anyone interested in World Christianity or missiology.

I also like that he appreciates the importance of Roman Catholicism, something which many evangelical authors simply discard as being dead or meaningless. This is, in my opinion, a grave error. While it is true that Catholics do not attend church or give money as vigorously as many evangelicals, and while the Catholic Church does not generally focus on making converts or evangelizing through preaching, and while most Catholics are sadly illiterate when it comes to knowledge of the Bible, that does not mean they are not Christians, nor does it mean that none of them are saved, nor does it mean that Catholics do not have an important contribution to make.

Are fears of a future "Muslim Europe" well-founded?

Jenkins: I don't think they are because…