Sunday, September 30, 2007

Leaving Britain

Cal Thomas:

Britons give many reasons for leaving, but their stories share one commonality: life in Britain has become unbearable. They fear lawlessness and the threat of more terrorism from a growing Muslim population and the loss of a sense of Britishness, exacerbated by the growing refusal of public schools to teach the history and culture of the nation. What it means to be British has been watered down in a plague of political correctness. […]

Abraham Lincoln said no nation can exist half slave and half free. Neither can a nation be sustained if it allows conditions that result in mass emigration, while importing huge numbers of foreigners who come from backgrounds that do not practice assimilation or tolerance of other beliefs. When one factors in the high number of abortions (one in five pregnancies are aborted in England and Wales), the high birth rates of immigrants (15 times those of white Britons), it doesn't take an expert to predict that the days of the England we have known may be numbered.

The problem for Britain and the United States isn't just the change in demographics. It is the reluctance of both countries to inculcate the beliefs, history and, yes, religious ideals, which made our nations so successful that others wanted to come and be a part of them.

Prime Minister Badawi of Malaysia on Islam

From HERE:

New York - Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called Friday for increasing dialogue to repair misunderstandings by the West about Islam.

'The main cause is the misperception in the West that Islam promotes exclusively and encourages extremism,' Badawi said in an address to the UN General Assembly.

He said action should be taken to generate 'greater understanding' between civilizations and cultures and dialogue to establish 'the truth that Islam is a religion which espouses universalism, not exclusivity, and tolerance, not bigotry.'

Update on Maldives

Has Islamic terrorism arrived on the Maldives?

Check it out at The Telegraph.

Why is smoking forbidden in Ramadan?

From our friends at Islam Q&A:

Smoking is haraam and there is no doubt that it is forbidden...

With regard to the reason why it breaks the fast, that is because the smoke contains particles that reach the stomach.

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen was asked about the fasting person smelling perfume and he said:

It is permissible to use it during the day in Ramadaan and to smell it, except for bukhoor (incense), because incense contains particles that can reach the stomach, and that is smoke.

Fataawa Islamiyyah, 2/128.

Cigarette smoke is like incense in that they both contain particles, but they differ with regard to the basic ruling: incense is halaal and good, and smoking is haraam and bad.

And Allaah knows best.

The Maldives, the Unreached, Vacation

Well, the secluded archipelago nation of the Maldives is now in the news. It is mostly Muslim and the principal people group there, the Maldivian Malki, are 100% Muslim. It is one of the most unreached nations in the world, as well as one of the most hardest to access.

Check out the country profile over at the Joshua Project.

Here is the recent news on a terrorist attack in the Maldives from CNN:

Arrests made after Maldives blast:

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) -- Maldives police have arrested two local men after a nail-packed bomb exploded in a busy park Saturday and wounded 12 foreign tourists, a government spokesman said Sunday.

Remains of a mobile phone and timer alleged to be used for a bomb in Male, Maldives, Saturday were found.

The homemade bomb exploded outside the crowded Sultan Park in the capital, Male, the first such incident reported in this Indian Ocean archipelago renowned for its exclusive tourist resorts.

Government spokesman Mohamed Shareef said that police arrested the suspects hours after the blast. But no motive has been established yet, and it was unclear whether they would be charged.

"The Maldives has never had something like this before. We are taking this very seriously because tourism is our life blood," Shareef said after the blast on Saturday.

But the Maldives are very beautiful country, located in the Indian Ocean. And one of its primary sources of income is tourism. Would you consider traveling there for your next vacation and taking a few Bibles in Arabic as well as committing to sharing the Gospel with people in the tourism industry and walking through the streets while praying?

Contact your local tourism office about visiting the Maldives and take Christ there, while you're on vacation.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

From back seat, Saudi women long to drive

About the movement in KSA (the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) to give women the right to drive cars. Yep that's right, even women with MD's and PhD's who operate on people and are university prof's can't drive:

Women in KSA Want to Drive

(Remarks welcome especially from our readers in KSA.)

Missionaries to an unreached tribe?

Ever wonder what it is like to be a missionary to tribe that is unevangelized? That has little or no access to the Gospel, Christian formation, pastoral care, or discipleship? This is a great blog of an evangelical family who is carrying out that work today. There are many such tribes and groups around the world.

Here is the beginning of their most recent post:


Dear Friends and Family,

The last time we communicated, before our recent update, Ginny was just recovering from a serious and sudden illness. She is back up to full strength now, as if the incident never even happened. We have an amazing God!

It has been almost a whole year since we came here. Wow, that is hard to believe! We are deep into language study now. We have our good days and bad days, as one might expect. Yet we have every confidence that God is guiding us and watching us through every step. I have summarized the things that have happened with us below.

As we move along, we must keep in mind the reason we are here – God sent us here to take His Gospel to an unreached tribal people group. The things we are struggling with now – language studies, equipment breakage, sickness, etc. – these are all part of the Lord’s continued preparations for us so that we can represent Christ to the people He is sending us to.

Part IX: Islam and Victimhood

(Originally Posted in 12/2006, but for those of you haven't read it, I think this is one of the most important aspects of Islamic culture today and no one ever talks about it!)

Part IX: Islam and Victimhood
by Abu Daoud

“No one admits that his own yogurt is sour.” --Syrian proverb

I want to suggest in this post that victimhood has become an integral and essential element in Muslim identity today. There are a number of reasons for this, some of them are valid, but many of them are not. I want to explain why and how this has come to be the case today.

If I may quote Sam Huntington, “The problem is not Islamists, it is Islam: a civilization convinced of its superiority and obsessed with its inferiority.” Islam is unlike Christianity in that it makes certain guarantees, namely that if a society is faithful in following Islam (and the sharia’) then certain consequences must follow: material wealth, political power, an ever-widening scope of authority over non-Muslims, scientific and economic advancement, justice and good governance, and so forth. It is very clear though to people throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) that other than sub-Saharan Africa their region is near the bottom of the list in all these areas. With globalization, migration, increasing ease of travel, and of course the internet, it has become clear to Muslims everywhere that this is not at all the case today.

(It must be stressed that Christianity does not make any such promises. While there are verses from the proverbs that speak of God rewarding hard, honest work, and many of us have seen this in our lives, even stronger is Jesus’ insistence that the Kingdom of God is characterized by opposition which may well be violent, and indeed resulting in martyrdom.)

And the tension is not just between MENA and the West. Rapid development and the growth of a middle class have moved forward in nations like India and China, not to mention the astounding development of places like South Korea and Japan in the 20th Century.

So there is a very tense situation because the empirical evidence and experience of the people run directly against the claims of Islam. There are two common ways of trying to reconcile the evidence and the religious doctrine. The first is simply to say that none of the Muslim countries are actually practicing Islam correctly. I hear this a lot: this country is too strict, that country is too liberal; this country is not democratic enough; that country has a corrupt monarchy; and so on. My answer: There are more than 20 Arab Muslim countries, and you mean to tell me that not one of them can get Islam right? If that is the case then Islam is more of a dream than a realistic system that can actually work. It’s like someone telling you that you can get a million bucks for walking from the ME to North America. You can easily spend all your life trying to do it, but ultimately it is simply impossible, no matter how wonderful the promised reward is.

The second response though is my primary concern here: victimhood. The reason that Muslims nations are not the prominent world powers, that their governments are extremely corrupt, that nepotism and tribalism and rampant, that five million Israelis publish more scientific papers in a year than 400 million Arabs, that no Muslim nation in MENA actually has freedom of the press, assembly, or speech, and that the governments are not accountable to the people—the reason is simple: we are being oppressed.

The culprit changes from place to place and time to time: the French, the British, the Israelis, the Americans, but tomorrow it will be someone else. Sometimes the culprit is other Muslims, but even then (as is the case of fighting between Shiia’ and Sunni in Iraq) the real culprit is outside of Islam.

The rise of the sense of victimhood is integral to the recovery of jihad which we have witnessed in these last years. Historically Jihad need not be related to self-defense at all, but the appeal to self-defense strengthens those who advocate it. And here is the critical tie: If all Muslims are victims of Western anti-Islamism then any act of Jihad against the West becomes an act of self-defense. This was OBL’s explicit rational for the 9-11 attacks: they were a defensive measure. And since all Americans contribute to the American oppression of Islam by virtue of paying taxes, all Americans (children and women included) are in fact military targets and their execution is an act of worship to God. Such is his logic, which, while novel, has great appeal throughout Dar al Islam.

Victimhood is a central element of contemporary Islamic identity. When the West does not help Muslims it is oppressing them. When the West intervenes in the region it is imperialism and occupation. When the west opts for the long, messy, and sometimes ineffective path of diplomacy, they are indecisive. When the West makes dramatic moves they are brash and militant. Victimhood confers on one’s self the ability to abuse power in the name of protection and self-preservation.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only remedy because, as I outlined above, political and social efforts to help will always be interpreted by some as further persecution. Moreover, they lack the ability to bring about the profound moral and spiritual conversion that we call being born again. Only within the Gospel do we find a point of reference for victimhood and power because we understand that in the ultimate sense of the word no one is a victim because no one is absolutely innocent except for Jesus Christ. As the Gospel transforms our minds and our communities, the imperative is to be generous and forgiving rather than to assert the rightness of one’s cause. This is the transformation we should hope for in MENA.

At the Airport

On my way back from AFM's CSI Conference where I spoke about what attracts Muslims to Christianity.

Will blog more tonight and hopefully write something based on some of the conference presentations from my notes. There are many good missions agencies out there, and I have mentioned the Orthodox Christian Missions Center for the Orthodox and K-teams for Roman Catholics. AFM is ideal for missions-minded Anglicans, and that includes folks from the continuing churches.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Pointers for Exorcizing Demons

From New Advent as well. Most of it is very helpful for every kind of Christian:

* Possession is not lightly to be taken for granted. Each case is to be carefully examined and great caution to be used in distinguishing genuine possession from certain forms of disease.
* The priest who undertakes the office should be himself a holy man, of a blameless life, intelligent, courageous, humble, and he should prepare for the work by special acts of devotion and mortification, particularly by prayer and a fasting (Matthew 17:20).
* He should avoid in the a course of the rite everything that savours of superstition, and should leave the medical aspects of the case to qualified physicians.
* He should admonish the possessed, in so far as the latter is capable, to dispose himself for the exorcism by prayer, fasting, confession, and communion, and while the rite is in progress to excite within himself a lively faith in God's goodness, and a patient resignation to His holy will.
* The exorcism should take place in the Church or some other sacred place, if convenient; but if on account of sickness or for other legitimate reasons, it takes place in a private house, witnesses (preferably members of the family) should be present: this is specially enjoined, as a measure of precaution, in case the subject is a woman.
* All idle and curious questioning of the demon should be avoided, and the prayers and aspirations should be read with great faith, humility, and fervour, and with a consciousness of power and authority.
* The Blessed Sacrament is not to be brought near the body of the obsessed during exorcism for fear of possible irreverence; but the crucifix, holy water, and, where available, relics of the saints are to be employed.
* If expulsion of the evil spirit is not obtained at once, the rite should be repeated, if need be, several times.
* The exorcist should be vested in surplice, and violet stole.

The Order of the Exorcist

From New Advent--and remember that this article was written in 1909:

The practice of exorcism was not confined to clerics in the early ages, as is clear from Tertullian (Apologet., 23, P.L., I, 410; cf. De Idolat., 11) and Origen (C. Celsum, VII, 4, P.G. 1425). The latter expressly states that even the simplest and rudest of the faithful sometimes cast out demons, by a mere prayer or adjuration (Mark 15:17), and urges the fact as a proof of the power of Christ's grace, and the inability of demons to resist it. In the Eastern Church, a specially ordained order of exorcists (or of acolytes, or door-keepers) has never been established but in the Western Church, these three minor orders (with that of lectors as a fourth) were instituted shortly before the middle of the third century. Pope Cornelius (261-252) mentions in his letter to Fabius that there were then in the Roman Church forty-two acolytes, and fifty-two exorcists, readers, and door-keepers (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., VI, xliii, P.G., XX, 621), and the institution of these orders, and the organization of their functions, seems to have been the work of Cornelius's predecessor, Pope Fabian (236-251).

The fourth Council of Carthage (398), in its seventh canon, prescribes the rite of ordination for exorcist; the bishop is to give him the book containing the formulae of exorcism, saying, "Receive, and commit to memory, and possess the power of imposing hands on energumens, whether baptized or catechumens"; and the same rite has been retained, without change, in the Roman Pontifical down to the present day, except that instead of the ancient Book of Exorcisms, the Pontifical, or Missal, is put into the hands of the ordained. From this form it is clear that one of the chief duties of exorcists was to take part in baptismal exorcism. That catechumens were exorcised every day, for some time before baptism, may be inferred from canon of the same council, which prescribed the daily imposition of hands by the exorcists. A further duty is precribed in canon 92, viz: to supply food to, and in a general way to care for, energumens who habitually frequented the Church. There is no mention of pagan energumens, for the obvious reason that the official ministrations of the Church were not intended for them. But even after the institution of this order, exorcism was not forbidden to the laity, much less to the higher clergy, nor did those who exorcised always use the forms contained in the Book of Exorcisms. Thus the Apostolic Constitutions (VIII, 26; P.G., I, 1122) say expressly that "the exorcist is not ordained", i.e. for the special office of exorcist, but that if anyone possess the charismatic power, he is to be recognized, and if need be, ordained deacon or subdeacon. This is the practice which has survived in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Eastern Orthodoxy (Part V)

by Frederica Mathewes-Green

4.) Can you name a couple of the most common misunderstandings/misrepresentations you come across- in terms of North American conceptions of the Orthodox Church?

Probably the major misunderstanding is to visualize the early church as united under the rule of Rome. In that view, the Orthodox broke off to become a smaller, headless, inconsequential group--identical to Rome in every way, except frozen in the past. But a moment's reflection show the early church wasn't like that. All of the 7 "Ecumenical Councils" were held in the East. The great majority of early Christian documents--the Desert Fathers, the Church Fathers--are written in Greek (including the New Testament). Constantine the Great was ruler over the Roman Empire, after all, and though he moved his capital to Byzantium (which he renamed Constantinople), it continued to be the Roman Empire for another thousand years. In Turkey today, Christians are still known as "Rum."

Of course in the West, the version of the story where Rome is the center of everything is the only version people hear. It was frustrating during the "DaVinci Code" furor to hear this reflexive elision, that there were Christians in Jerusalem, and then everything vanishes except in Europe, and then we're talking about a painter who lived 1500 years later. The entire Eastern side of the story, where Christianity goes into Africa and Asia and flourishes, is ignored. Also, much of what the Reformers reacted against in medieval Rome is not part of Orthodoxy. In my new book, The Lost Gospel of Mary, I try to discover through ancient texts how the Virgin Mary was originally seen, and as I say in the Intro, "the early middle-eastern church was not the medieval European church."

As one Orthodox priest says, when he went back and checked his Church History notes from Lutheran seminary, they covered the centuries between the Apostles and the Reformation in 3 pages. I guess if I could just persuade people that they don't know what Orthodoxy is, I'd consider it a good start.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pope defends right of Muslims to convert

From Anglican Mainstream:

Yesterday, near Rome, the 80-year-old pontiff made a speech in “defence of religious liberty”, which, he said “is a fundamental, irrepressible, inalienable and inviolable right”.

In a clear reference to Islam, he said: “The exercise of this freedom also includes the right to change religion, which should be guaranteed not only legally, but also in daily practice.”

Addressing the problem of Islamic extremism, he added: “Terrorism is a serious problem whose perpetrators often claim to act in God’s name and harbour an inexcusable contempt for human life.”

Last September, radical British Muslims said Pope Benedict should be executed for “insulting” the Prophet Mohammed.

Throughout the Middle East and Africa, Christians were subjected to violence in retribution for his remarks.

His latest comments, however, come just days after one of the Church of England’s-senior bishops warned that Muslim leaders here must speak out in defence of the right to change faith.

The Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, told Channel 4’s Dispatches programme of his fears for the safety of the estimated 3,000 Muslims who have converted to other faiths in this country.

The "untouchables" in India

Wonderful post at Maior autem his est caritas, about the dalits in India converting to Christianity, and the persecution they face.

Let me add that India is dear to my hear, and in many ways I think the future of the Faith depends on India along with China and Korea (May God open up North Korea in his great mercy!)

Two of my dearest friends are Indians, and I remember well discipling them on the basics of the Christian faith, and their subsequent baptism (by immersion) with their two children in our church. (He was Sikh, she was Hindu.)

Saint Thomas the Apostle evangelized in India. He had his doubts, but he met Christ and was honored with martyrdom for his faith and preaching. May God help us to follow his example.

Excellent Qualities of Muhammad


Bearer of good news and a Warner
Description of the Prophet
Far Removed from Love of Wealth
Forgiveness by the Prophet
Generosity of the Prophet
Generosity, Clemency and Conduct
Gentleness of the Prophet
Justice of the Prophet
Kindness to Animals
Love and Anxiety for his Ummah
Love for the Poor
Mercy to all Mankind
Muhammad (s.a.a.w.) as a Witness
Prophet with People
Prophet's Appearance and Dress
Prophet's Manners and Disposition
Routine Household Tasks
Superiority Only in Righteousness
The Best in Morals and Manners
The Holy Quran on Muhammad (s.a.a.w.)
The Light of the Prophet by Dr. Badawi
The Similitude with which Allah has sent him
Trust in Allah
With His Family and Children

Americans more negative on Islam

From the AP:

The number of Americans who say Islam has little or nothing in common with their own religion has spiked to 70 percent in the past two years from 59 percent, the poll found.

Another significant shift has taken place: In 2005, 36 percent of the public said Islam is more likely than other faiths to encourage violence among its believers. That number has risen to 45 percent.

Interest on you bank account forbidden

Islam is not simply a "religion" as I have pointed out many times. It is a complete system that is religious and political and military and economic. One of the main points of Islamic economics is that making money from interest (riba) in an account or paying interest on a loan is immoral. I am not talking about usury--excessive interest--here, by the way. Even the 1.5% I get on my checking account is illegal and haraam (forbidden). Here is an example of Islamic thought on the topic:

It is not permissible to put money in riba-based banks except in cases of necessity in order to protect it when there is no Islamic bank. In that case one should only use a current account (i.e., without interest), on the basis of doing the lesser of two evils. The interest that is taken for depositing money in a riba-based bank is haraam and it is riba which has been forbidden by Allaah and His Messenger in emphatic terms...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Islam and the blasphemy of science

From this commentary on the Quran. Helpful in understanding why Islam is in fact not congenial to the development of natural science:

Allah’s unfettered hand is a vivid image of divine freedom. Such a God can be bound by no laws. Muslim theologians argued during the long controversy with the heretical Islamic Mu‘tazilite sect, which exalted human reason beyond the point that the eventual victors were willing to tolerate, that Allah was free to act as he pleased. He was thus not bound to govern the universe according to consistent and observable laws. “He cannot be questioned concerning what He does” (Qur’an 21:23).

Accordingly, there was no point to observing the workings of the physical world; there was no reason to expect that any pattern to its workings would be consistent, or even discernable. If Allah could not be counted on to be consistent, why waste time observing the order of things? It could change tomorrow. Stanley Jaki, a Catholic priest and physicist, explains that it was the renowned Sufi thinker al-Ghazali who “denounced natural laws, the very objective of science, as a blasphemous constraint upon the free will of Allah.” The great twelfth-century Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides explained orthodox Islamic cosmology in similar terms, noting that Islamic thinkers of his day assumed “the possibility that an existing being should be larger or smaller than it really is, or that it should be different in form and position from what it really is; e.g., a man might have the height of a mountain, might have several heads, and fly in the air; or an elephant might be as small as an insect, or an insect as huge as an elephant. This method of admitting possibilities is applied to the whole Universe.”

Ethiopian Orthodox Tawahedo

Here is the website for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church for those of you interested:

Ethiopia, Christianity, and Islam

Ethiopia is a very important country in terms of missions, Christianity, and Islam. It was the first country to actually become Christian officially (followed by Armenia and then the Roman Empire). The predominant Ethiopian Orthodox Church is entrusted with a section of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and I have walked through their chapel while the monks are in prayer a few times.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is a non-Chalcedonian church meaning that it is classified as Oriental Orthodox, like the Syriac Orthodox Church, Coptic Orthodox Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church. Both Christianity and Islam are growing in the country, while animism is in decline. Muslims have a great desire to see the country Islamized as a party of Muhammad's followers visited the country, though he himself had unflattering things to say about the Orthodox Christians there.

Here are some of the prayer points for Ethiopia from Operation World's Ethiopia page which has a great wealth of information on the country and what is going on there: (OW is evangelical so they naturally regard a growth of Protestantism as positive, FYI)


1 Praise God for the thrilling growth of the Protestant churches since 1936. Two great waves of violent persecution under the Italians in 1936-41 and the Communists in 1974-1990 refined and purified the church, but there were many martyrs. Vision, sacrificial evangelism and courageous witness have characterized Evangelicals of all denominations. There have been great seasons of harvest with millions coming to Christ, the greatest being since the failure and collapse of Communism. Protestants were fewer than 200,000 — 0.8% of the population — in 1960, but by 2000 this had become nearly 12 million and 19.7% of the population.

2 Growth of Protestants continued in the 1990s with numbers almost doubling to 11 million and to nearly 18% of the population.

3 The unity between believers forged in the severe Marxist persecution has continued and dynamic plans for outreach, pioneer evangelism and mission endeavour for the period 2000-2020 are being implemented.

4 Increased distribution and use of the Bible for reading and preaching has brought revival to sections of the Orthodox Church. In 1997 it was estimated there were 20,000 active, born-again Christians associated with this move of the Holy Spirit. Many have moved on to start new churches or join existing evangelical churches.


[1 Pray for political stability and peace.]

2 The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is going through immense change. Centuries of isolation from the rest of the Christian world as a Christian island in a sea of Islam helped form its unique culture, theology and traditions.

a) It has had to adjust to the loss of political privilege under Communism, which has only been partially restored since 1990. Syncretism and the occult are widespread among the millions of nominal Orthodox.

b) The rapid spread of the use of Scriptures and growth of Protestant denominations has led to both millions of defections and the emergence of strong evangelical and charismatic networks in the Orthodox Church.

Pray for a deep work of the Holy Spirit to bring this ancient Church to its biblical heritage and to new life.

3 Massive growth in Protestant and Independent churches has created a great expectation for further harvest. Pray for:

a) Continued revival and growth not to be quenched by carnality, division and power-seeking in leadership. A characteristic of the recent move of the Spirit has been widespread mobilization of ordinary believers and multiplication of cell churches.

b) Effective means for generating income to support men and women in the service of the Lord, develop the structures and facilities needed and fund social programmes essential in the prevailing deep poverty.

c) Preservation of the cooperation and unity among leaders which was forged in suffering. Vigilance is needed to heal past broken relationships and prevent future fleshly discord. Pray especially for the Evangelical Churches Fellowship (ECFE) which represents the majority of Evangelicals in the country.

d) The continued growth of missions vision. A big commitment to missions by various evangelical denominations was cut back in 1976 due to persecution. Out of this suffering emerged a national vision and a united strategy for evangelizing Ethiopia. The 20 year integrated strategy included prayer and people-mobilization, survey training and sending out missionary evangelists to every province and people with few Evangelicals and then to other lands. By 2000 much had been achieved. Pray for the successful accomplishment of the complete vision by 2015. KHC is spearheading outreach to India and Pakistan.

4 Leadership training was severely restricted under Communism. Much has developed since 1991. Pray for the following:

a) Post-graduate training at the Ethiopian Graduate School in Addis Ababa. This was jointly established by the KHC and Mekane Yesu Churches. Pray for the provision of theologians and teachers that are both godly and steeped in the Scriptures.

b) The degree-level training — the Evangelical Theological College (KHC and SIM), Mekane Yesu Theological Seminary, the AoG Bible College with 100 students, Trinity College and the Orthodox St. Paul’s Seminary.

c) The numerous Bible Schools run by denominations all over the country such as the 187 Amharic Bible schools (KHC) and Mekane Yesu with many more.

d) The network of evening and short-term Bible schools and TEE programmes around the country where many thousands of local leaders and evangelists are trained.

5 The Muslim advance. Muslims strengthened their position under Marxism, and have launched a massive campaign for the Islamization of Ethiopia by penetrating Christian areas with the offer of bribes and a mosque-building programme — many were reported to have been built during the time that many Christian churches were being closed. Their numbers are growing significantly, with converts out of both animism and the Orthodox Church. Ethiopia is strategically vital for both Islam and Christianity. Pray for a definite prayer mobilization that will lead to breakthroughs among Muslim peoples and also frustration of these Islamic stratagems. Converts out of Islam are numbered only in hundreds.

Shari'a and church buildings

Am now in the process of finishing up a very helpful book called The Spirit of the Islamic Law. (Full info is below.) I hope over the next week or two to include some quotes from this book on the blog. Here is the first one, on what the Islamic state looks like when it follows the Sharii3a (Shari'a):

Churches, synagogues, and other non-Muslim places of worship were restricted to locations outside the central public areas of the city. Usually they were located in the residential quarters where those who frequented them lived. The law placed restrictions on the building of new non-Muslim places of worship, even though these restrictions were not always enforced. In principle, non-Muslim communities remained constant, while only the community of Muslims was free to grow by way of proselytization. New mosques could therefore be built as needed, but non-Muslim places of worship could for the most part be only repaired or replaced.

The Spirit of the Islamic Law p. 149
Bernard G. Weiss
The University of Georgia Press 1998

Monday, September 24, 2007

"He hath bought from the believers their lives"

"Lo! Allah hath bought from the believers their lives and their wealth because the Garden will be theirs: they shall fight in the way of Allah and shall slay and be slain." -- Qur'an 9:111

Rumors of War: Syria and N Korea

Israeli commandos seized nuclear material of North Korean origin during a daring raid on a secret military site in Syria before Israel bombed it this month, according to informed sources in Washington and Jerusalem.

The attack was launched with American approval on September 6 after Washington was shown evidence the material was nuclear related, the well-placed sources say.

They confirmed that samples taken from Syria for testing had been identified as North Korean. This raised fears that Syria might have joined North Korea and Iran in seeking to acquire nuclear weapons.

Hat tip to Jihad Watch. Quote from the Sunday Times.

Killed for eating on the street

This from The Black Iris of Jordan:

Speaking of, I was reading an article the other day about a man who was arrested for eating in the street. The police took him to the precinct where he spent the night in jail. The next morning he was found dead. This story created a heated discussion between my father and I. He was of the opinion that if someone is eating in the street then they’re disrespecting the will of the majority who are Muslim, and that it’s a way of intimidation. I could not get on board with that, as I argued that democracy is also respect of the minority and moreover not only does a Muslim have the choice of fasting or not fasting, but you can’t just lock people up for eating in the street. It’s not only silly and archaic, but it creates a slippery slope. Moreover, the guy could’ve been sick and had to eat. My father however, argued that while there is the choice of ‘to fast or not to fast’, people should respect those that are around them, and they should summon the will to eat in their own homes. That is kind of true. The man was 52 I think.

The US Dollar; Myanmar

Two interesting headlines here from the Christian Science Monitor, which is a great news source IMHO:

How the falling dollar affects Americans

The falling dollar means that money sent to missionaries abroad will not go as far, generally speaking. So those of you who support missionaries in other countries, please consider increasing your giving to them.

Protests swell against Burma's military regime

Myanmar (Burma) is one of the most closed countries in the world in terms of Christian missions. Changes to a more open government would be beneficial for the spread of the Gospel in that mostly Buddhist country. But I think the evangelization would not be done by Americans and Europeans, but by other folks from S. Asia and SE Asia.

Check out the Joshua Project's profile on Myanmar.

Yemen: a people without hope

This is from a letter written by Yemeni-Americans and Yemeni Canadians to their respective congresses:

We believe it is our national, ethical and human duty to submit this letter to deliver the oppressed cries of the Yemeni people. Who are searching for salvation, emancipation, and liberation from the iron grip of the corrupt, terrorist, and dictatorial regime in Yemen . We put you in front of historical and human responsibilities to help the people of Yemen who need the help of the free world to make the changes possible. They do not have hope to see changes accept from outside sources because of the nature and brutal mentality of the Yemeni regime.

...We are the Americans and the Canadians of Yemeni origin caring about the security and safety of this country that gave us freedom, hope, dream, life of dignity, and human rights. However, because we are Yemeni origins we are aware that the Yemen regime has produced a scary hotbed of the international terrorism and export it internationally. In fact, more than one incident happened in Yemen that proves our knowledge towards the involvement of the Yemeni Regime that supports terrorism and trains the terrorists in the regime camps in order to send them to Somalia , Iraq , Lebanon and elsewhere. One is the terrorist attack on the warship USS COLE, and the killing of the Spanish tourist in the city of Marub . Also, the terrorist incident of killing the three Americans doctors who served in Yemen for more than thirty years, providing medication and treatment for free.

How refreshing to find Muslims that will call terrorism terrorism. Pray for Yemen and that the Gospel would continue to grow there, because while I applaud this action on the part of these Canadians and Americans, hope and freedom come genuinely and fully with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whose kingdom is not of this world.

(Thanks to Armies of Liberation for this.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Parable by Abu Daoud

(originally posted on 10/26/06)

"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 point of the parable might not be obvious to people not used to thinking in terms of honor. The point is not that God has given two religions, and that one of them is superior. Rather it is that the God of Christianity shows more honor and generosity to humanity than the God of Islam.

For those of you who talk with Muslims regularly I encourage you to learn this short parable and ask your Muslim friends what they think about it.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

How to talk to evangelicals

Bridging the Divide: how to talk to evangelicals
by Abu Daoud

A reader of Islam and Christianity recently asked the question of how he, an Orthodox Christian, could talk to his Baptist neighbor to convince him that he was in fact a genuine Christian. The Baptist was off to Russia, if I recall correctly, to evangelize the unsaved Orthodox. How can our Orthodox (or Catholic perhaps) convince his neighbor that he is in fact a fellow brother in God's family and not just an unsaved soul who needs to be born again? Here are a couple of pointers:

1) Read the Bible and let him know about it: evangelicals have a special devotion to the Bible, just like many Palestinians have a special devotion to Saint George or Mexicans have for the Virgin of Guadalupe. The Bible plays a very central role, as it should, in their lives in areas like Bible memorization and daily devotionals. Once he understands that you read the Bible and believe in it he will take your faith more seriously.

2) Use words he knows: when talking about the hierarchy, unless it is very important to specify, please feel free to use the word "pastor" instead of the various and sometimes convoluted titles that have developed through the ages. Pastor is a helpful word because it is what he calls the leader of his church. Other examples: sermon, not homily. Worship and Communion, not Holy Liturgy and Eucharist.

3) Acknowledge your faults: people generally have a fairly good reason for thinking that Catholics and Orthodox are nominal and that they are not fully converted. Acknowledge that and admit that your church really does need to do a better job teaching youth about the Christian faith and the Bible and the virtuous life. There are so many people who are technically Christians (they have been baptized) but who are unevangelized. Your evangelical friend understands that nominal Christians are unsaved, and one can make a strong case that in a sense of the word they are correct.

4) Pray with him: ask him to pray for you, ask him how you can pray for him. Evangelical Christianity rightly understands that prayer is a mark of God's grace in the life of the believer. That you would pray for him and ask him to pray for you shows that God's grace is active in your life.

Well, those are a few pointers. Sooner or later, if you are good friends and communicate often, then you will be able to get into deeper questions about differences in practices. theology, and so on.

But given the specific instance mentioned above, what would I have done? (And I'm not Orthodox btw.) I would have told him that he has an important job to do, to disciple the Russians and teach them the Bible and call them to a living and strong faith in their Lord. I would say that the Russian Orthodox Church has a great history of missions but after Communism it became weakened and many of our Orthodox brothers there have no knowledge of the Bible or the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to free them from addiction, alcoholism, and sickness. Then I would say a prayer with him and ask God's blessing in his mission to Russia.

Personal Evangelism?

Dear Readers:

I will be giving two one-hour courses on personal evangelism at a local anglo-catholic church here in the area (Denver) over the next two weeks. I have outlined most of the talks already, but I am wondering what you think about the topic?

I am tasked with giving Christians information and insights regarding how to share the faith the nominal Christians and non-Christians. It is a topic I truly love and hope to be able to make the talks available via mp3 on the blog, but that is just a possibility and I've not done it before so I'm not sure if it will work.

Salaam wa na3mat irrab ma3kum wa 3alaykum.

Abu Daoud

Declare the Wonderful Deeds!

Abu Daoud says: a wonderful reminder of how the beauty of Creation is linked to God's grace and love for us. It is indeed a sign (aya) of his goodness and power--and that is taught explicitly in both the Bible and the Quran:

I went climbing this past weekend at Seneca Rocks, West Virginia. It was an awesome time!! I may have to share some pictures from the trip with this blog when I get them developed.

While camping out, after the first day, I was hanging out around the campfire with my friends and began to read some excerpts from the Bible. Well, I turned to 1 Peter (no, not because my name is Peter:) and read this passage:

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy."

One of my favorites! What struck me was the purpose of "the Church" here is clearly laid out. The four nouns in the beginning refer to the people of the new covenant - the Church. We are called to "declare wonderful deeds!" And one "wonderful deed" that I always marvel at is creation and the beauty God created it with. Its awesome! Get away from the city sometime and get to the mountains or to the ocean or some aspect of His creation that speaks of His grandeur.

From Everyday Apostles

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Breaking the Ramadan fast with non-Muslims?

Someone asks this question: is it permitted for a Muslim to break the Ramadan fast (iftaar) with a non-Muslim? Here is the answer from Islam Q&A, which I find interesting:

Praise be to Allaah.

It is permissible to have iftaar with non-Muslims if there is a shar’i reason for doing so, such as calling them to the true religion, or softening their hearts towards Islam, etc, which are what is hoped for if they come and eat iftaar at the tables set up for communal iftaar, as happens in some countries. But if it is done just to be friendly towards them and enjoy their company, this is a dangerous matter, because the principle of al-wala’ wa’l-bara’ (befriending the believers and showing enmity towards the disbelievers) is one of the basic principles of Islam, and one of the most important duties of the believers. This principle is referred to in a number of verses in the Book of Allaah and ahaadeeth of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), for example:

Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): [...] “O you who believe! Take not for Awliyaa’ (protectors or helpers or friends) disbelievers instead of believers. Do you wish to offer Allaah a manifest proof against yourselves?” [al-Nisa’ 4:144]

“O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians as Awliyaa’ (friends, protectors, helpers), they are but Awliyaa’ of each other. And if any amongst you takes them (as Awliyaa’), then surely, he is one of them. Verily, Allaah guides not those people who are the Zaalimoon (polytheists and wrongdoers and unjust)” [al-Maa'idah 5:51]

In other words, the answer is that genuine friendship with non-Muslims is forbidden. Muslims can ACT like they are friends with non-Muslims to get them to convert to Islam or to gain some benefit for Islam.

Thank God that many Muslims don't actually obey this rule. But it is difficult to get around the prohibition of having non-Muslim friends in the Quran, which is quite clear.

Quote from J.S. Mill

War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

–John Stuart Mill

What do you think? Agree or disagree? Why?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

How Islamophobia Promotes Islam

From the blog (Not Much) of one of our readers:


In the very early days of Islam, when there were less than 20 Muslims in the world a very smart man who hated Islam called "abu-Jahil" in Mecca warned people not to listen to Muslims nor to ask them about Islam, his actions guided many people to Islam and despite him knowing this he could not stop himself thus promoting Islam. This is not a secret it is part of the history of Islam, it is how Islamophobes have been spreading Islam since it started.

Up until the 50s an anti-Islamic book would receive as little attention as a pro-Islamic book for only a few religious scholars cared to read them. The media changed all that and have made Islam a topic of conversation around the world for decades. You can hear the word Islam in hundreds of ways each day, Fox News, for one, has millions of readers listeners and viewers - each one hears the words Islam 100s or even 100s of times a day. I do not like what Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Rilly say about Islam, but love seeing the positive effects their words have in guiding some of their listeners towards Islam or at least a better understanding of Islam, the rest of their listeners learn to hate Islam and Muslims but that is not news to anyone.

Robert Spencer wrote an anti-Islamic books that I now see being heavily promoted, from the title I gather that he thinks that Islam is not a religion of peace. It came out soon after the number Innocent Iraqis slaughtered passed the one million mark and is going higher fast - he might not care what is happening to the people of Iraq but many who read his books do and they ask questions that his books do not answer for them. Soon another writer will write another Islamophobic book, and another anti-Islamic movie will come out - they all spread Islam in the long run. I think it is because people are getting tired of all the lies. I really hope to see Mr. Spencer write dozens of best sellers about Islam - they do spread Islam much faster than any Muslim I know can....

Abu Daoud says: There is more, but that is about 1/2 of the entire post. Let me sum up what I think the main point of the post is though, and feel free to correct me if you think I'm wrong: that in Allah's providence even when people hear negative things about Islam, this makes them want to learn more about it, and as they learn more about it, they become convinced of its truth. Thus "islamophobia" (an absurd word, IMHO) spreads Islam in the end.

But I could answer that in a fair fight, if Islamic governments would not persecute converts to Christianity, and if the Bible was made available freely in Dar al Islam, and if the church could welcome in new converts in those countries, that Christianity would win, hands down.

But the fight is not fair. Christians, because of the teachings of our Lord Jesus, resist coercion in the name of religion. Islam, because it was the example of al insaan al kaamil (Muhammad, the perfect man), use coercion all the time. Why else do you think that NO country in the Muslim Middle East actually has genuine freedom of religion, the press, assembly, speech, or anything else?

I agree that there are people who hear about Islam, find something attractive in it, an then become Muslim--I just met one yesterday actually, though he later left Islam. But if the rules were fair then the Gospel would attract thousands more than the message of Muhammad every could. Do you doubt me? Let's try it: allow Muslims to leave Islam. Make irtidaad (apostasy) legal.

Hadiith on Fasting

“The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘Allaah says: “Every deed of the son of Adam is for him, except for fasting; it is for Me and I shall reward for it.” Fasting is a shield and when one of you is fasting he [must] avoid sexual relations with his wife and quarreling. If somebody should fight or quarrel with him, he should say, ‘I am fasting.’ By the One in Whose hand is my soul, the unpleasant smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allaah than the smell of musk. The fasting person will have two moments of joy: one when he breaks his fast, and the other when he meets his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting.’”

(Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1771)

France's Open Door is Closing

by Robert Marquand

An immigration bill, expected to pass, requires knowledge of French and proof of support.

Paris - Last year, France's famously open doors began closing on individual immigrants. This week, France starts making it harder to bring families and spouses to a country where joblessness and welfare are seen as draining the treasury and creating reservoirs of ill feeling, particularly among the middle class.

In a new measure expected to pass the French Assembly in 15 days or less, new family arrivals must speak French. Immigrant parents must guarantee their kids will behave. And breadwinners must show earnings of up to 1,600 euros a month.

The entire article is over at the CS Monitor.

Does this represent a movement towards realism and away from Eurabia?

More Chesterton

Where else? From Of Priests and Paramedics:

"Catholicism is the only thing that saves a man from the awful indignity of being a child of his time."


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Rochester Bishop warns that Muslims who convert risk being killed

Jamie Doward, home affairs editor
The Observer,,2170160,00.html
September 16, 2007

One of the Church of England's most senior bishops is warning that people will die unless Muslim leaders in Britain speak out in defence of the right to change faith.

Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, whose father converted from Islam to Christianity in Pakistan, says he is looking to Muslim leaders in Britain to 'uphold basic civil liberties, including the right for people to believe what they wish to believe and to even change their beliefs if they wish to do so'.

Some Islamic texts brand Muslims who convert to other faiths as 'apostates' and call for them to be punished. Seven of the world's 57 Islamic states - including Iran - impose the death penalty for conversion.

Now Ali, who some see as a potential Archbishop of Canterbury, has told Channel 4's Dispatches programme of his fears about the safety of the estimated 3,000 Muslims who have converted to other faiths in Britain.

'It is very common in the world today, including in this country, for people who have changed their faith, particularly from being Muslim to being Christian, to be ostracised, to lose their job, for their marriages to be dissolved, for children to be taken away,' Ali said. 'And this is why some leadership is necessary from Muslim leaders themselves to say that this is not what Islam teaches.'

The bishop warns that Muslims who switch faiths in Britain could be killed if the current climate continues. 'We have seen honour killings have happened, and there is no reason why this kind of thing cannot happen.'

In 2004, Prince Charles asked British Muslim leaders to renounce laws of apostasy and the death sentence for converts in Islamic countries, but no public statement was ever made.

Dispatches obtained Islamic texts sold in Britain that say the punishment for apostasy is death - according to all four schools of Islamic jurisprudence. One text called for Muslims to cut off the head of those who reject Islam.

The radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which some in Britain want to see banned, states in its constitution that in countries that practise Sharia law, apostates are to be executed. Its message is disseminated on university campuses across Britain and has found a following among a minority of young Muslims.

A poll of more than 1,000 British Muslims, conducted by the Policy Exchange think-tank this year, found that 36 per cent of Muslims aged between 16 and 24 believe those who convert to another faith should be punished by death.

Sheikh Mogra, a senior member of the Muslim Council for Britain, told Dispatches: 'We live in a country where we respect people's choices. It is not right for any British Muslim to harm in any way whatsoever; to bully them, to intimidate them, to threaten them, is all against Muslim law.'

One convert interviewed for the programme told how his local Muslim community in Bradford closed ranks against him after he switched to Christianity. 'They told me categorically had I been in an Islamic country - Pakistan, Middle East - that they would actually be the first to chop off my head,' he said.

[Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali is one of my favorites, by the way. Hat tip to Virtueonline]

Monday, September 17, 2007

Rumors of War...

From CNN:

PARIS, France (AP) -- France's foreign minister warned Sunday that the world should prepare for war if Iran obtains nuclear weapons and said European leaders were considering their own economic sanctions against the Islamic country. [...]

The Gospel, Transforming Cultures

Does anyone know where this quote is from? Do you like it or not?

For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new: "Now I am making the whole of creation new." But there is no new humanity if there are not first of all new persons renewed by Baptism and by lives lived according to the Gospel. The purpose of evangelization is therefore precisely this interior change, and if it had to be expressed in one sentence the best way of stating it would be to say that the Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieu which are theirs.

Strata of humanity which are transformed: for the Church it is a question not only of preaching the Gospel in ever wider geographic areas or to ever greater numbers of people, but also of affecting and as it were upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, mankind's criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation.

All this could he expressed in the following words: what matters is to evangelize man's culture and cultures (not in a purely decorative way, as it were, by applying a thin veneer, but in a vital way, in depth and right to their very roots), in the wide and rich sense which these terms have in Gaudium et spes, always taking the person as one's starting-point and always coming back to the relationships of people among themselves and with God.

The Gospel, and therefore evangelization, are certainly not identical with culture, and they are independent in regard to all cultures. Nevertheless, the kingdom which the Gospel proclaims is lived by men who are profoundly linked to a culture, and the building up of the kingdom cannot avoid borrowing the elements of human culture or cultures. Though independent of cultures, the Gospel and evangelization are not necessarily incompatible with them; rather they are capable of permeating them all without becoming subject to any one of them.

The split between the Gospel and culture is without a doubt the drama of our time, just as it was of other times.

Evangelical Catholic Missions: K-teams

Some of our readers lamented the lack of evangelistic missions within the Catholic Church. Here is the statement from Kerygma Teams, a group which I think can really claim to be evangelistic AND Catholic:

It is a ministry within YWAM but run by and for Catholics. Kerygma Teams is a branch of the interconfessional lay - missionary organisation YWAM Youth With A Mission. Kerygma Teams supports Catholic parishes, renewal movements, and groups active in evangelisation, mercy ministries, and training in the Catholic Church. In addition, Kerygma Teams offers opportunities for Christians to become involved in short and long-term cross-cultural missions projects. Ke-ryg-ma, a Greek word meaning the proclamation of salvation through Christ.

I see this as the best possible example of what the best of evangelicalism (YWAM is profoundly evangelical) and the best of Catholicism together can accomplish. I think that the strengths of evangelicalism like the emphasis on personal holiness, devotion to study of Scripture, and the belief that every Christian is responsible for sharing their faith and evangelizing can all be, quite easily I would say, incorporated into the life of the average Catholic (or Orthodox, for that matter).

So check out the K-teams website and hope for more groups like this. May I also mention that such groups rely on the financial support of Christians for their sustenance and support? I think I read somewhere that the average Catholic gives about 1/3 as much to the church and her ministries as the average evangelical.

But enough of my remarks, I will leave you to read this very interesting history of YWAM and K-teams:

Youth With A Mission (YWAM), which now fields more than 12,000 full-time workers in more than 140 countries, was founded in 1960 by Loren Cunningham, an ordained Pentecostal pastor of the "Assemblies of God" denomination in the U.S. Cunningham's original aim was to offer young people from various churches the chance to participate in international evangelistic endeavors during their school holidays. The concept caught on quickly, and by the beginning of the 70's there were YWAM ministry centers in North America, Africa, Australasia, South America, and in Europe. With the growth of the YWAM came an increase in opportunities to ministry to, and along side, Christian groups of all kinds - including groups within historical churches.

Even with its Pentecostal roots, YWAM has always tried to cultivate a "heart" for all of God's people. Therefore, as doors of service opened up with Catholic groups in Spain, Austria, Poland, and elsewhere, it seemed logical to walk through these, even if many "YWAMers" had little, in any previous contact with Catholics, much less training on how to sensitively serve them.

Lessons were learned over the years (some of them the "hard way"), and by the early 90's YWAM not only had an ever-increasing amount of ministry in and with Catholic groups, but also a growing number of Catholics working on staff in some of the ministry centers. As one can imagine, this encouraging development brought with it its own unique set of challenges. Foremost among them was: How could YWAM create space in this predominately Protestant mission for Catholics to participate in YWAM's calling, and at the same time remain rooted in their church and fully able to express their Catholic faith.

An international group of 35 Catholic and Protestant YWAM leaders met in Dublin in the summer of 1992 to examine this and other related questions. This "Dublin Consultation on Evangelization in the Catholic World" laid the groundwork for what eventually became Kerygma Teams.

[I know about K-teams from a lay Catholic missionary in a Muslim country. He and his family are wonderful people. Their work there was more to support the local church rather than evangelize Muslims though.]

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Baby Girl born!

Baby girl was born on September 15th. We are filled with joy. Um Daoud and the baby are healthy and happy :-)

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Praise him, all creatures here below!
Praise him above, ye heavenly hosts!
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Liturgy, the Church, a Muslim convert

Another testimony. This man was a sheikh (elder) in Egpyt and he had decided to engage in debate with Christians to show them the fault of their ways, as the Qur'an recommends. This ended up taking him to an Anglican church which is where we start:

Mansour was amazed at the peace and dedication and attention of the congregation. He was impressed by the depth and the spirituality of the prayers, hymns and the reading and study of the Bible. Mansour, like most Muslims thought that Christians were spending their time praying to and idolizing icons and statues of Jesus and the Apostles which he believed is paganism.

After the service, a date and time for a meeting was agreed upon. They met and the discussion proceeded to subjects like the oneness of God and the Trinity.

He spent the time in futile arguments with no end in sight. After the discussion he felt the superiority of Islam over Christianity. The Christian priest told him that we all seek God and suggested that in his prayer [he] seek the truth. Sheikh Mansour felt offended and answered: "Do you think I doubt my faith? I pray five times a day to Allah because I seek him and believe in him and his Islam".

When he went home the Holy Spirit moved him and he decided to give the advice of the priest a try. He spent a great deal of anguish and turmoil trying to explore the truth and was never sure if he lost his faith or is getting closer to the truth. He had to justify it to himself that all the religions are equal and it is up to man to choose since they all lead to the truth. He started frequenting the Anglican Church more often and was listening one day to a preacher, who came from Alexandria to Sohag. He was very moved by the Bible verses:

God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:9

Whoso offers praise glorifies me: and to him that orders his conversation aright will I show the salvation of God. Psalms 50:23

He spent the nights reading the Bible and alternating between doubt and belief. He would lock himself in his room day and night. He looked pale and disoriented. His family and friends were worried and thought that he may have a mental disease. I was the only one who was allowed to see him and he begged me not to disclose what I see.

One day he came out from his room. He was his true self, happy, confident and you can see the peace on his face. He found the truth the way and the life. He discovered the sinful nature of man and the salvation through Christ the Lord. He found out that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

He started to frequent the Christians more often and his library became filled with Christian books.

His Muslim friends did not know how to approach him in this regard since a man with such knowledge of Islam and respect of the community can not possibly have Christian tendencies. They tried to persuade him to stay away from his Christian friends. He succeeded in eluding them. He only went visiting his Christian friends at night and hiding his face. This did not help since they finally accused him of being a Kafir (non believer).

Finally, he thought that he had to face his accusers. He went to the Anglican Church and asked to be baptized. The Anglican Church was afraid of the reaction of the Islamic community in Sohag and procrastinated. He decided to approach the Catholic priest asking for Baptism. The priest replied that he is willing to baptize him and got in touch with the Catholic authorities in Cairo in that respect. The reply came from Cairo asking him to travel there. We saw him suddenly leaving the Muslim school with one of his partners and left all his belongings to go to Cairo.

He joined the Catholic Church in Cairo close to the end of 1894 and was baptized. He chose the name Michael.

May I note that the role of the church as a community was central ot his conversion? He was not challenged by intellectual debate or apologetics, but by one priest who said that we should ask for the truth when we pray, and when he say Christian men and women, no doubt much like me and you, worshiping God in the liturgy. (It obviously wasn't 'dead ritual,' it must have bee living ritual...)

God didn't make evangelism to be the work of an individual. He made it to be the work of the people. Hmm, that's an interesting phrase--work of the people. Now that I think of it, there is Greek word we use that means exactly that: work of the people.

Liturgy. Work of the People.

Why do Muslims fast during Ramadan?

SO why do Muslims fast during Ramadan? I have asked Muslims this question many times. They often just answer with a good0natured shrug and "haek biddu Allah," which is a very colloquial way of saying, "That's what Allah wants."

I think about this question of fasting and dietary regulation every Friday when we abstain from anything with warm blood in it: pork, chicken, beef, lamb. Why do we do this? Because Friday is a special day. It is the day when Jesus was crucified, which means that we can honor life in a special way by what we refrain from eating. Now this is not a particularly example of dietary devotion, but I offer it as one reason for such a an exercise of piety.

Islam Q & A in its customary way offered a long rambling answer to this question, in a way that only an imam or Anglican bishop could. Rather than post his prolix answer I will summarize and abridge the four points he has outlined:

a) We Muslims fast the month of Ramadaan because Allaah has commanded us to do so. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“ O you who believe! Observing As-Sawm (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (pious)”

b) It is by His wisdom that Allaah has prescribed a variety of acts of worship, so as to test people with regard to how they will obey all these commands. Will they only choose to do that which suits them, or will they do that which pleases Allaah?

c) The reason why fasting was prescribed, which is taqwa (piety) and submission to Allaah. Taqwa means giving up haraam things, and in general terms includes both doing what is commanded and abstaining from what is forbidden. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever does not give up false speech and acting upon it and offensive speech and behaviour, Allaah has no need of his giving up his food and drink.”

So there you have three reasons for the Muslim to fast: that it is a characteristic of the believer to obey what Allah commands; that Allah tests us in our fasting; and that it builds up our piety.

Another interesting question is why fasting is prescribed during Ramadan specifically. I also asked that question many times and one friend was able to tie it to some event in Muhammad's life, but I don't know the story well enough to relay it, nor do I know of the validity of that story. It is very different to the Lenten fast which is for Catholics and Protestants fairly easy, but whose reason is know to many: it is a preparation for Easter and a time to devote to repentance and confession of our sins. (I should point out here that the Orthodox Lenten fast is very difficult, possibly more so than the Islamic sawm of Ramadan.)

However unsatisfactory the answer of our Muslims friends may be to the Christian's question, he has a much more poignant question to ask of evangelicals in general: Why do you not fast at all?

Let me also point out that it is worthwhile to remember Jesus' own teaching on fasting, and compare this to what Muslims are taught:

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

--Matthew 6:16-18

Click for English or for Arabic.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Eastern Orthodoxy (Part IV)

By Frederica Mathewes-Green:

3.) In At the Corner of East and Now you mention that while Protestants tend to see Orthodox and Catholics as closely related brethren, Orthodox tend to see Protestants and Catholics this way. Can you explain the difference in understanding?

Answer: It's funny, but I remember when my editor was going over that chapter, he wrote in the margin that I needed to give some examples of what Protestants and Catholics disagree about; as a Jewish man, he didn't know what they were.

It took me a very long time to grasp how Orthodoxy is different. As I said above, there is really no book that encapsulates it. I learned, I guess, the old-fashioned way, the way people have assimilated this faith from the beginning, by going to worship and listening. The words of the services are very rich and full of teaching. The feast in early June of the Council of Nicea, for example--the hymns recount it all thoroughly, explain what Arius taught, why he was wrong, what the council decided, etc. Since worship has been in the vernacular through history, even illiterate peasants could get a thorough theological education, just by going to church and listening.

Gradually, gradually, over several years, I began to grasp how it differed from both Catholic and Protestant traditions. First, there is an expectation that every Christian (every person, actually) is called to this transformation in Christ. It's not just for "mystics" -- in fact, there is no word for "mysticism" in Orthodoxy. There is just the normal Christian life. We don't have pietistic (some would say narcissistic) "spirituality", because the essential test of growth in Christ is humility and active love for others.

Another difference from Western Christianity is that this transformation includes the body as well as the soul. There isn't the dualism that keeps troubling the West. This is why, in the early church, they gathered the bloody remains of martyrs and placed them under the altar (in Revelation, John hears the voice of the martyrs crying out from beneath the altar). The body of a Christian, not just his mind or soul, literally participates in Christ ("partakers of the divine nature" says St Peter), which is also evident from their belief that the Eucharist is really Christ's Body and Blood. Post-Communion prayers speak frankly of the physical Eucharist passing "through me, to all my joints, my kidneys, my heart" -- un-squeamish about that. Perhaps Platonism/dualism didn't take root in Eastern Christianity because early Christians were so often in debate against "philosophers," who were recognized as pagans. We still use many ancient hymns that celebrate the victory of Christians over "philosophers." (also re dualism, St. Augustine had virtually no role in Orthodoxy, and his explication of Original Sin doesn't fit Orthodox understanding of the Fall's effects.)

A big factor is that Western theology was based on the Scriptures in Latin translation, and as radically as the Reformers broke with Catholicism, they still unknowingly built on the same Latin-language thought-world. (St. Augustine could not read Greek well, and was led astray by a mistranslation in Romans 5:12). An example is the NT Greek word "energeia," energy, which appears all through St Paul, eg, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for God is energizing in you, both to will and to energize for his good pleasure." But there was no Latin equivalent, so when Jerome made his translation he used "opus," work. A sculptor creates a statue and that is his opus, but it is separate from him; he's not "energizing" within it. So you see that this creates a very different sense of whether and how God is present--the reverberations go on and on.

In Orthodoxy, salvation is a free gift, entirely by grace (grace is an aspect of God's "energy," rather than a separate created thing). We are saved by being rescued from the power of death and the evil one, like the Hebrews rescued from Pharaoh--not by Jesus making a payment to the Father. That theory didn't develop till the 11th century, after the East-West split. Substitutionary atonement strikes native Orthodox as strange and somewhat repellent. Though, as I said, they emphatically believe in salvation by grace, so you see how it cuts across Western categories.

Those are just some of the examples of where Protestants and Catholics have a theological "family resemblance" that Orthodox don't share. It gets even more complicated when the terms have just a shade of different meaning. I've been Orthodox 14 years and I'm still learning. Sometimes I think I'll try to write the book that would sum all this up, and sometimes I think it can't be done; you can't get it any other way than by living it, soaking in it.

[If you haven't please read also Part I and Part II and Part III.]

Friday, September 14, 2007

September 14th: The Triumph of the Cross

From Here:

September 14th: The Triumph of the Cross

Early in the fourth century St. Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem in search of the holy places of Christ's life. She razed the Temple of Aphrodite, which tradition held was built over the Savior's tomb, and her son built the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher over the tomb. During the excavation, workers found three crosses. Legend has it that the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman.

The cross immediately became an object of veneration. At a Good Friday celebration in Jerusalem toward the end of the fourth century, according to an eyewitness, the wood was taken out of its silver container and placed on a table together with the inscription Pilate ordered placed above Jesus' head: Then "all the people pass through one by one; all of them bow down, touching the cross and the inscription, first with their foreheads, then with their eyes; and, after kissing the cross, they move on."

To this day the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox alike, celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on the September anniversary of the basilica's dedication. The feast entered the Western calendar in the seventh century after Emperor Heraclius recovered the cross from the Persians, who had carried it off in 614, 15 years earlier. According to the story, the emperor intended to carry the cross back into Jerusalem himself, but was unable to move forward until he took off his imperial garb and became a barefoot pilgrim.


The cross is today the universal image of Christian belief. Countless generations of artists have turned it into a thing of beauty to be carried in procession or worn as jewelry. To the eyes of the first Christians, it had no beauty. It stood outside too many city walls, decorated only with decaying corpses, as a threat to anyone who defied Rome's authority—including the heretic sect which refused sacrifice to Roman gods. Although believers spoke of the cross as the instrument of salvation, it seldom appeared in Christian art unless disguised as an anchor or the Chi-Rho until after Constantine's edict of toleration.


"How splendid the cross of Christ! It brings life, not death; light, not darkness; Paradise, not its loss. It is the wood on which the Lord, like a great warrior, was wounded in hands and feet and side, but healed thereby our wounds. A tree has destroyed us, a tree now brought us life" (Theodore of Studios).

Inspired by the Nazis

[People in the West are usually not aware that many Muslims respect and love Adolf Hitler. Here is a little info on the historical ties between the National Socialists and Muslims of Jerusalem.--Abu Daoud]

Inspired by the Nazis
by Suzanne Fields for The Washington Times

A major figure connecting Nazi and Islamist ideologies was Amin al-Husseini, a self-styled "grand mufti" of Jerusalem who fomented riots against the Jews in the 1920s and ordered the murder of any Muslim who traded with Jewish settlers. Adolf Eichmann visited him in Palestine in the 1930s; he was a friend of Heinrich Himmler. He was a guest of Hitler in Berlin from 1941 until the end of the war in 1945 and directed the Muslim SS in the Balkans. He was responsible for stopping the Bulgarian government from releasing thousands of Bulgarian Jewish children to travel to Palestine. "It was he," says historian Paul Johnson, "who first recruited Wahabi fanatics from Saudi Arabia, transforming them into killers of Jews — another tradition that continues to this day." What's important about the Nazi-Islamist connection is the way it inspires terrorists today. It's fashionable to say that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism, but that's misleading. In its charter, the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine, which has morphed into the terrorist organization Hamas, enshrines conspiracy theories which blame the Jews for everything from the French Revolution to the Communist revolution.

"The Revolution in my Heart"

From Here:

We live simply here [in the USA] because of a different choice. The choice to raise our kids ourselves rather than farm them out for someone else to care for. I know I am the best caregiver for my children and don't want to settle for anything less for them. But living on a teacher salary for the past year has been hard. Many of my friends and family have heard me talk about how we struggle financially. And they probably think - why don't you work then? I guess then it wouldn't be so hard. But that for me is not an option.

Read it all at Or something like that.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Section XIV: Islam and Tahriif

Section XIV: Islam and the "Corruption" of the Bible

The Arabic word referring to this corruption is "tahriif", and the teaching is that the Christian (and thus Jewish) Scriptures are profoundly flawed and are thus not reliable indications of God's will, commandments, prophets, or of the history of his people. (Note: I am particularly occupied with questions regarding Jesus' teaching--the injiil--in this article.)

Tahriif is a very wide-spread belief among Muslims today, though it is not universal. It places Muslims in a very powerful position regarding the Bible because for anything they agree with already they can say, "This is from Allah, do you see that we believe in the Prophets? Why do you not accept Allah's final prophet (Muhammad) as well?" But if they are confronted with anything that challenges Islam or the Qur'an, they can say, "Clearly the text has been corrupted, for Jesus would never have said such a thing and this goes against the Qur'an."

So how can a Christian react to this? There are several paths that come to mind, all of which have been used with some degree of success in the past, I will outline three of them for you and indicate which one I generally prefer:

a) Historical Weakness of Tahriif:
The traditional doctrine of tahriif tells the following story: Prophets like Jesus and Moses received genuine verbatim revelations from God like Muhammad. But perfidious Jews and Christians later corrupted these texts to suit their purposes. Now this story is found nowhere in the Qur'an, which most Muslims don't know, but it is based on certain hadiith and most Muslims simply don't know the Qur'an very well. This story is problematic from an historical point of view and prompts raises more questions than it answers:

• The New Testament took form on three different continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe), how were Christians able to collect all the valid versions of the injiil (the book Jesus received from God) given that it was recorded and spread over such a broad area?
• Languages: Sections of the NT had been translated from Greek into Latin, Syriac , Hebrew, and probably Amharic and Coptic by the end of the 2nd Century. Did the tahriif of the injiil take place before or after the translations? If before, then it must have been in the 1st Century, but there were still people alive then who had known and listened to Jesus personally, which means that there would be some record of people objecting to this corruption of the injiil. If the tahriif occurred after the translations, then we would have to believe that EVERY COPY of the true injiil which was present in three continents in (at least) half a dozen languages was destroyed.

b) Motive of Corrupters: The Gospels as we have them today give a rather unflattering picture of the Apostles. They are often foolish, proud, and faithless. It is thus unlikely that they would have "corrupted" the injiil without revising the many events which make them look foolish and weak.

It is also unlikely that one would corrupt a text without removing all the promises of persecution and familial strife, and the advocacy of poverty--hardly the kinds of things you put in a religious message if you want it to be popular. Rather, one thinks that a religious message crafted to gain popularity would include the promise of riches, women, and power--promises we do find explicitly in the Qur'an.

Moreover all the Apostles minus John were martyred for their faith. If they had corrupted the injiil and knew it to be a false message, it is inconceivable that they would all die rather than denounce it's validity. Who then corrupted the injiil? People will not die for a message they know to be corrupted. By the end of the Apostolic era the texts of the four Gospels were too wide spread and and existed in too many languages for a unified and viable tahriif to be possible.

But historical reasoning and evidence will generally get you nowhere at all with most Muslims because in Islamic culture the entire discipline of history has largely been subsumed as a sort of devotional exercise to prove the Qur'an is correct. Trying to argue from historical evidence that the Qur'an is not true is like me trying to convince you from the hymnal that the Bible is false.

c) Corruption in your Heart: This is by far my preferred apologetic. I like this approach because in many ways it mirrors Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and the interiority of the Kingdom of God. Fasting is not about letting other people know you are fasting, it is about God knowing you are fasting, for example. Similarly, I start by explaining that tahriif is very real and it is a significant problem. We say that God knows the heart of all men, and that he is all powerful--no Muslim will disagree. Then I explain that when the Jew knows the Torah and its commands, and he disobeys it, he has corrupted the Torah in his heart. Likewise the Christian who knows the commands of the injiil and disobeys it has corrupted the injiil. And finally, the Muslim who knows the commands of the Qur'an and disobeys it, is it not true that he has corrupted the Qur'an? The answer, in my experience, is always yes. Muslims are very aware that most Muslims aren't very strict in their obedience.

In conclusion I usually ask, "Is Allah powerful or weak?" Powerful! "Is Allah wise or foolish?" Wise, the answer comes. "Yes my friend, and Allah is more powerful than the Jews and the Christians, and no one is capable of corrupting God's words to his prophets! If anyone says that his words corrupted IN THE TEXT of the Torah and Gospel, he is a man who believes that God is neither wise nor powerful. But you see that corruption is in our hearts."

This is not simply a play on words. It does accommodate the Muslim who already believes in tahriif. All you have done is to reformulate the doctrine of tahriif in a way that is very much based on Jesus' teaching. But this apologetic also gets to a very foundational weakness in the Islamic view of God. God is always connected with power in Islam--Allahu Akbar! God is the greatest. Yet the Islamic narrative proposes that Jesus was not crucified, for God would not let than happen to a prophet of his. Yet we are also told that the word God gave to this prophet was not preserved? To preserve the true injiil would have been easy for God. Why did he not do it? Why did he allow 600 years of humanity to operate under the assumption that this corrupted injiil was in fact valid and accurate? And given that even from the beginning Christianity was riven with heresies and fanatics, how is that not even one copy of the real injiil was preserved by a dissenter.

All good questions. But they are not to be used to as a weapon to assault a Muslim. Whether the tone is light and conversational, or adversarial--which is sometimes necessary--we must always speak the truth in love. It is a sign of God's love to us that his true Word is in fact his Son who came to live with us, hunger with us, eat with us, cry with us, and suffer for us. His Word is not some book that one can close and place a shelf, but one who is alive and whom death could not hold down. Because of his life we have hope for eternal life: "And this is everlasting life, to know you the one true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."

Christian Tortured to Death in Eritrea

Christian Tortured to Death in Eritrea - Compass Direct News/Open Doors

On September 5, Eritrean authorities tortured to death 33-year-old Nigsti Haile for refusing to recant her Christian faith while being held at the Wi'a Military Training Center. Haile is the fourth Christian killed in Eritrea in less than a year. Compass Direct News reported, "She was one of 10 single Christian women arrested at a church gathering in Keren. They have spent 18 months under severe pressure. Haile was killed for refusing to sign a letter recanting her faith."

In May 2002, government officials called in the leaders of all evangelical churches in Eritrea and told them they would not be permitted to hold further public services. Only the "historic religions" of Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran and Islam have been allowed to hold public worship since that time. Compass Direct says that more than 2,000 Eritrean Christians are imprisoned. Not a single one of them has been formally charged or had a public trial, and all have been denied legal representation.

Amnesty International released a report yesterday that said most of the more than 2,000 imprisoned Christians have been held for more than two years in harsh conditions, with little or no medical care. Pray for the Holy Spirit to comfort the family of Nigsti Haile. Ask God to protect and encourage Christians in Eritrea, especially believers imprisoned because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Philippians 4:6-7, 2 Corinthians 10: 5-6

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Ex-Muslims Unite!

Encouraging news from Eurabia:

Europe: New Groups Unite Those Who Renounce Islam
September 11, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Some call them apostates, but they prefer the term ex-Muslims.

Today marked the official launch of the Dutch Ex-Muslim Committee, the latest such group to emerge in Europe. The groups say they want to make it easier for people to renounce Islam -- and draw attention to places where leaving the faith is punishable by death.

The new group is headed by Ehsan Jami, a 22-year-old Dutch politician of Iranian origin.

The group's creation follows the launch this spring of a German council for former Muslims.

Other groups soon followed suit in Scandinavia, and in Britain.

"If these groups in Europe are able to draw attention to the worldwide problem, this is of great benefit." -- Paul Marshall, Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom

Rights activist Maryam Namazie, the force behind the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, said that even for those living in Europe, it's not easy to renounce Islam. Those who do face threats and intimidation. "So we thought if we could have an organization based on the German model where you could actually have people's faces and names who announce that they want to renounce Islam, it would make it easier," Namazie said.

She says her group aims to "break a taboo" about leaving Islam
, and to present a more varied image of Muslims and people of Muslim background.

Membership is small: Namazie says her group still only has some 70 members, while the German group claims around 600-700.

But she says this is likely a small fraction of the number of former Muslims in Britain. "It's not an organization that people can become members of easily because of the threats and intimidations that surround it. And so I think in reality each member that does put his name and face to the organization represents many more who are unable to do so right now," she said.

Fear of Persecution

To be sure, all these groups have sprung up in the relative religious freedom of Western Europe.

It's a long way from countries like Afghanistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, where apostasy is punishable by death.

But Namazie says she herself has received death threats. Mina Ahadi, who set up the German council, is under police protection. And Jami of the Dutch group is reportedly now living in a secret location after being assaulted.

Paul Marshall, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, says initiatives like these groups have the potential to be helpful by highlighting what he calls a major issue worldwide.

"Many ex-Muslims around the world are persecuted, some are killed, others are imprisoned and very many live in fear. So this is a huge issue," Marshall said. "If these groups in Europe are able to draw attention to the worldwide problem this is of great benefit."

But the latest initiative has drawn criticism, too.

Today's launch comes on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States -- a date chosen for its associations with militant Islam.

Han Noten, a senator from Jami's Labour party, said the choice of date was a provocation. "It suggests the issue is about the innocent and the guilty, with former Muslims being innocent and Muslims guilty," he wrote.

And even some other Dutch ex-Muslims have been critical, too.

"We defend the right to be able to walk away from any religion, including Islam,” one of them, Behnam Taebi, said in a statement. "But they are using that right as a cover to categorically insult Muslims and to stigmatize them as 'violent' and 'terrorists.'"