Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Murmurs of reason coming from the Netherlands?

I almost can't believe it. Could this be the beginning of a belated attempt to bring Europe back from the perilous process of Islamization? I'm not sure how much it will help, if they don't start having more kids it won't make a difference. I'm telling you, think Lebanon in the 80's, urban fighting, stuff like that.

Indeed, Ploumen says, "Integration calls on the greatest effort from the new Dutch. Let go of where you come from; choose the Netherlands unconditionally." Immigrants must "take responsibility for this country" and cherish and protect its Dutch essence.

Not clear enough? Ploumen insists, "The success of the integration process is hindered by the disproportionate number of non-natives involved in criminality and trouble-making, by men who refuse to shake hands with women, by burqas and separate courses for women on citizenship.

"We have to stop the existence of parallel societies within our society."

And the obligations of the native Dutch? Ploumen's answer is, "People who have their roots here have to offer space to traditions, religions and cultures which are new to Dutch society" - but without fear of expressing criticism. "Hurting feelings is allowed, and criticism of religion, too."


The whole article is at IHT. And this is coming from the Left--not some ultra conservatives.

Maybe the intercession of St Plechelm, patron of the Netherlands, is having some effect?

The Curious Case of the Married, Roman Catholic Bishop

Wow, we all know about married Roman Catholic priests (formerly Anglicans) but I didn't know about this at all. From VirtueOnline:

Married ex-Anglican bishops functioning as Roman Catholic bishops would not be unprecedented, however. In December 1959, Pope John XXIII received a married ex-Anglican priest, who had been consecrated as a bishop of the schismatic Igreja Católica Apostólica Brasileira, into the Roman Catholic Church.

Married with seven children, Bishop Salomão Barbosa Ferraz was not re-ordained upon his reception in the Catholic Church. Upon being named Titular Bishop of Eleutherna on May 10, 1963, he was not re-consecrated. Active at the Second Vatican Council, Bishop Ferraz appears to have been the only modern day married Roman Catholic bishop. Ferraz was ordained a priest and then a bishop by Bp. Duarte Costa who was validly ordained by Rome. "Rome simply does not accept the validity of Anglican orders so why would they accept Anglican Bishops, should they go over...married or not? Therefore the situation you cited would not be a precedent," Anthony said.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Saudi Jeans on the Judicial System in KSA

Saudi Jeans is one of the most famous blogs in the the Arab blogosphere (AKA البلوغوسفير العربي) and he has some interesting comments on the state of the Saudi Judicial system. There are some hopeful stirrings. But hope in KSA is like water poured onto desert sand more often than not.

I mention the topic since there was so much discussion on the recent post about the eight year old girl and 47-year old man being married and then the little girl being denied a divorce requested by her mother.

Here is the whole post from Saudi Jeans:

Court of Embarrasment

Not so long ago, criticizing the judiciary was a taboo in this country. But with more people learning more about their rights and finding new outlets to express their dissatisfaction, they began to clearly show their impatience with the performance of the justice system. The system has become a battlefield between reformers who demanded change and conservatives who defended the judges fiercely, arguing that since their verdicts are based on Sharia then they should be unquestionable.

Luckily for the rest of us though, the complaints did not fall on deaf ears. In October 2007, King Abdullah announced a $2bn plan to overhaul the legal system. It is a large undertaking and it will certainly take a long time to see the effects of this plan. The resistance of the old guard in the system will only make this process slower and more difficult. But one of the good immediate effects of this plan is that it has placed the judges under increased scrutiny. The past two years have witnessed a number of high profile cases that attracted much attention from people and the media, not just in Saudi Arabia but around the world.

I think that last week’s case in Onaiza, where a court rejected a divorce petition filed by the mother of a an eight-year-old girl whose father married her to a 58-year-old man, should be seen in that context. Sure, the verdict is outrageous and unfair, but hey, this is the K of SA, a country where judges are not tied to written laws and justice is a subjective matter that pretty much depends on their whims. Does Sheikh Habib al-Habib know that his government has [signed] the international Convention on the Rights of the Child since 1996? I don’t think he does, and I think he does not care because such international laws are made by mere mortals while he probably believes that he is applying God’s laws.

Abdullah Al-Jutaili, the lawyer representing the girl’s divorced mother, said he was going to appeal the verdict. Let’s hope judges at the appeals court will be wiser than their colleague here when they deal with this case that not only exemplified the kind of injustices the people of this country have to go through when their [misfortune] leads them to a court, but also further tarnished the already distorted image of Saudi Arabia in the world.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Reasons for Demographic Superiority of Islam

How did Islam grow so quickly for so long?

Other methods have been employed by Mohammedans for propagating their faith, such as the purchase or forcible seizure of non-Moslem children in times of plague, famine, war and massacre, or even in times of no special disturbance, and rearing them in the Mohammedan faith. The Janissaries at Constantinople are a case in point. The children of Christians were taken regularly to replenish the ranks of this special body-guard of successive Sultans of Turkey. Another method employed to increase the number of Moslems was the plurality of wives and the use of captive women of non-Moslem races as concubines. These two methods of propagation were conspicuously employed[.]

--James Levy Barton

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ramon Llull (Raymond Lully) on the Incarnation

Appropriate during this season of Christmas:

But as you are the God man and since your physical humanity naturally participates with all physical creatures, all creatures find rest in you like things that are likened find rest in their likeness, for you as a human are their ultimate purpose and end.


De contemplatione Raymundi

New Link: Lullian Arts

Well, I have gained a good deal of experience finding obscure links and titles on the internet, and I wanted to share with you two of them:

First, Lullian Arts, which is a fine English-language site for downloading some of the main works of Blessed Raymond Lull. It lacks, however, his greatest apologetic work: The Book of the Three Wise Mean and the Gentile, which you can purchase from Amazon in the Bonner's Reader. You can also find it online in Latin I think, though I haven't looked for it.

Anyway, here you go for the site in English:

Lullian Arts


If you want to start out with something short (but difficult) try out his ars brevis.

Second, the complete text in Catalán of libre del gentil e los tres savis is HERE.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

CNN: Saudi Judge Refuses to annul marriage of girl, 8

Actually, if you read the legal aspects of the case everything is indeed according to shari'a as far as I can tell. The mother does not have a right to file this case, and as long as the little girl's husband agrees to wait until puberty to have sex with her then he has fulfilled his obligations. Also, the giving of a daughter in marriage to settle a debt is entirely permissible in Islamic law. The fact that the man is 47 and the girl is eight is not material at all. The girl is a minor and so she has no say in this matter. Her father is her guardian, and then her husband is after the marriage.

Anyway, read it all here:

CNN: Saudi Judge Refuses to annul marriage of girl, 8

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Clement of Alexandria on the Perpetual Generation of the Son

For when he says, "That which was from the beginning," he touches upon the generation without beginning of the Son, who is co-existent with the Father. There was[,] then, a Word importing an unbeginning eternity; as also the Word itself, that is, the Son of God, who being, by equality of substance, one with the Father, is eternal and uncreate.

St. Clement of Alexandria (d. circa 215)
Commentary on 1 John

Monday, December 22, 2008

Gregory of Nyssa on the Holy Trinity

Now the fact that there is no distinction in the operations we learn from the community of the attributes, but of the difference in respect of nature we find no clear proof, the identity of operations indicating rather, as we said, community of nature. If, then, Godhead is a name derived from operation, as we say that the operation of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one, so we say that the Godhead is one: or if, according to the view of the majority, Godhead is indicative of nature, since we cannot find any diversity in their nature, we not unreasonably define the Holy Trinity to be of one Godhead .

St Gregory of Nyssa
On the Holy Trinity

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Anglicans in N America evangelizing Muslims?

Wow, this is cool. The new Anglican province in N America will, it appears, have Islam and evangelism as a main topic of its forthcoming synod in 2009. And the nice thing is that these Anglicans have intimate ties with those in Africa who know Islam in a very, uh, realistic sort of way, ie, my house and cathedral church were burned down by a mob of angry Muslims.

This is very encouraging. I write this as I hear the call of the minaret wafting over the hills and of my city here. Either the West will be laregly Christian with freedom for all, or largely Islamic with freedom for none. Thus saith the Lord. Quote me on that.

Task forces on prayer book and common worship, ecumenical relations, evangelisation and Islam, as well as committees on education and on mission are carried over from Common Cause days.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Lesslie Newbigin Prophecies: the failure of the secular model

Thus spake the prophet of the Lord, Lesslie Newbigin, in 1996 in Brazil:

The secular model has claimed to provide freedom but it cannot sustain that claim. It has been successful only insofar as it has been sustained by the remaining power of the Christian tradition; and as that tradition weakens, the secular society is unable to defend itself either against the rising religious fundamentalisms or against dissent [sic] into moral anarchy and hopelessness.

(p. 120, delivered in Dec. 1996)

Newbigin, Lesslie. 2003. Signs amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History. ed. Geoffrey Wainwright. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Organic Churches, the NT, Constantine, and the Bishops

The article that provoked this is here: The Assembling of the Church. Read it and chime in with your thoughts. It's an interview.

I have recently been returning to the question of the formation of the NT canon, which seems to be a disastrous weakness in the common evangelical mind. Without bishops (or some form of making regional and inter-regional decisions) and a theology to back them up, I don't see how you can come out with a NT canon. Indeed, the alternative is to leave that tradition (what is in and out of the NT) up to each congregation. I can't see why a congregationally-oriented church (and such are the organic churches, simple churches, and home churches) would opt to adopt the judgment of the archaic Synod of Rome in 382--a synod which took place after bishops had been given corrupting power by the infamous (among evangelicals) Constantine.

Why in the world would a congregational evangelical trust these men, who met under the leadership of Pope Damasus, and had been according senatorial power as bishops by Constantine? To give you an idea of the changes that had taken place I quote Nathan Howard:

Constantine wanted to effect a more efficient government with the help of the church after he emerged the sole emperor in 324. By assigning to the bishops juridical power and by diverting to them patronage resources, the emperor unwittingly allowed them to establish political networks that rivaled the local elites and the emperor himself. The inevitable result was that the bishops now commanded the emperor's deference, much as the senators once had. Churchmen soon became active players in formulating the emperor's religious policies, thus placing them in a position through which they might later suppress vestiges of pagan culture.

And evangelicals have opted to follow these men in their judgment regarding the inspiration of the many texts in use as the 4th C. was closing?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Nativity of Jesus according to Muhammad

The following oral tradition has been handed down from the Prince of the Prophets, the blessed Muhammad Mustafa:

"Whenever a human being is born, Satan prods the baby with his finger. But the devil could find no way of doing this to Mary's miraculous son. Allah protected Jesus from this distorting touch."


Ozak Al-Jerrahi, Muzaffer. 1991. Blessed Virgin Mary trans. by Muhtar Holland (Pir Press) p. 40

The Mumbai Atrocities

From HERE:

[...] But if the lack of outrage over the Islamic terrorist assault on Mumbai, India last month was any indication, everything has changed back.

The obfuscation that characterized much of the early reporting on Mumbai is partially to blame. Watching a number of television reporters go through visible pains not to use the word "terrorist" to describe a four-day reign of terror that would eventually kill more than 170 people and injure hundreds was a surreal spectacle. Initial articles described "militants," "gunmen," and "extremists," but rarely terrorists, and rarer still, Islamic terrorists. So-called experts prattled on vaguely about the perpetrators' motivations, as if the ideology fueling a group called the Deccan Mujahedeen was a complete and utter mystery. [...]


--Cinnamon Stillwell

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pentecostalism: the fastest expanding religious movement in the world...ever

This is from an excellent and short article over at the inexhaustible IBMR:

By the end of the twentieth century, Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity in all its diversity had expanded into almost every country on earth. It had become an extremely significant movement within global Christianity affecting Catholics, Anglicans, Protestants, evangelicals, and especially the independent churches in China, India, Africa, and Latin America. It is probably the fastest expanding religious movement in the world ever, certainly the fastest within Christianity.

Anderson, Allan. 'Spreading Fires: The Globalization of Pentecostalism in the Twentieth Century' in IBMR, Vol. 31:1, Jan. 2007, p. 9.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The deceitful use of language in the Episcopal Church

I ran across this comment and found it so eloquent that I wanted to quote it. While the example refers specifically to the Episcopal Church (TEC) which is primarily located in the USA, it also holds for a number of the main (declining) denominations in the West. There is no common language anymore. And yes, I am Anglican and I have good relations with a number of Episcopal churches back in the US, which is why I am more critical of it than other churches. From HERE:

This is an infuriating speech, precisely because its piety is manipulative, and dishonest. This is not mere name calling on my part. The evidence is stacked in rank on rank. At every turn, TEC has used language to manipulate, they have altered denotation and connotation, they tortured standard speech to create special distinctions that satisfy their own agenda. And now, we are to believe that TEC wishes to reform itself in Christ’s image and ways. But buried therein, we meet the word “diversity” and we realize what the speaker’s purpose is, to etiolate and attenuate opposition by using the language of peace to assert a soft domination.



This speech is a counter-attack, a form of suffocation with sweetness, as if he were spreading a toxic marshmallow Fluff on peanut butter. I have read many a TEC verbal gambit here, but this is monstrous in its audacity. As many another has asked, why would any Episcopalian wish to stay in the same church as such pusillanimity? Larry



One good friend of mine was studying to be an Episcopal priest and half-way through seminary he and his wife and their kids became Roman Catholic. I have two other good friends in seminary, they will both be ministering in the US but neither of them will be with TEC. These are young guys (late 20's and early 30's) who are dynamic and very talented and I don't know of any priests in TEC like them.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Advent Verses: Halcyon Days

Bend an ear:
the soft knock of opportunity is hard to hear
above the din of progress' regress
and what appears in the wreckage
of what was hoped for, waited for, and love's labors lost.

Click your heels:
approaching heaven lessens sin's appeal
let the presence of purpose proportion the spin of your wheels.

God need only speak to calm the waters
halcyon days are coming back again;
God need only speak to calm the waters
for the halcyon days.


From 'Halcyon Days', by Jeremy Post

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Former Episcopalian new top dog in Orthodox Church of America

Gotta love this guy! Just read this interview. Here are the last two questions:

Q: Orthodox churches are getting a significant number of converts from Western Christian traditions. Is that a reflection on Orthodoxy, on Western churches, or both?

A: To a great extent, many of the other churches are falling apart. The mainline Protestants, the Methodists, the Presbyterians. The Episcopalians have lost half their membership. The Baptists, even. The evangelical movement is already coming to an end. It's only about 100 years old in American culture, and it's kind of come to the fulfillment of its potential. The Orthodox Church is the fullness of the apostolic faith and the apostolic tradition. People find in it what they always thought Christianity should be.

Q: Given that situation, how can Orthodoxy go about raising its profile?

A: We very much believe in free will. You can't drag people kicking and screaming into the kingdom of heaven, as much as you might want to try. While we have not had, for the most part, an aggressive outreach, I think we need to look at different ways in which to reach out to the general population. Truly as it's said in many circles, Orthodoxy is America's best kept secret, and it's our fault.

[Abu Daoud says: do you think the evangelical movement in the US is really coming to an end? Or is he perhaps being too hasty?]

Yemen, the poorest Arab country

Yep, even a lower per capita GDP than Mauritania or Djibouti. Ouch.

SANA'A, Dec. 10 (Saba) – Yemen ranked last among Arab states in terms of the Gross Domestic Product per capita with $ 901, a report has said.

The report of the Arab Economic Unit Council, released on Sunday said Yemen recorded the lowest per capita income behind Mauritania whose GDP per capita reached $ 909.

Djibouti came ahead of the two states with GDP per capita of $977.

However, Qatar came in first place with $ 72.376, Emirates was in second place with $ 42.273, Kuwait third with $ 33.646, Bahrain fourth with $ 24.151, Saudi Arabia $ 15.158.

While the per capita GDP in Libya is $ 8903, in Lebanon $ 6243, in Algeria $ 3976, in Tunisia $ 3423, in Jordan and Iraq $ 2343, in Morocco $ 2290, in Syria $ 2136, in Egypt $ 1759 and in Sudan $ 1543.

The report said average per capita income in Arab states for the current prices raised to $ 4661 in 2007, up from $ 4188 in 2006, at a growth rate of 11.3 percent.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Official Rock Group of Islam and Christianity: Black Eyed Sceva/Model Engine

Well, I've been writing this blog for a couple years now and I feel entitled to recognize excellence in certain areas. For one, sweet, excellent, Catholic rock. Yes, there is such a thing.

The group is, as far as I know, no longer around, but it went by the name Black Eyed Sceva in its earlier days, and Model Engine in its later days--which is what I am listening to as I write this. The front man was Jeremy Post.

This group is great because, let's be honest, who else writes songs about martyrdom, pornography, and the sacrament of Confirmation and the evolution-creationism debate? The answer: no one. Who else writes of CS Lewis in song lyrics but calls him Clive Staples?

The lyrics are intelligent, the music is driven by the edgy guitar and accomplished drum-work. While their three albums were critically acclaimed they did not sell that well, which means you can get them used for cheap.

Years go by and questions are raised: just who is that God you praise?
You see the line ain't so fine between going to church and being saved.
This is my Confirmation day.

--Confirmation Day, from 5 Years, 50,000 Miles Davis

Now I'm drawing lines to form fish in the sand
If they find you out, they'll hang you upside-down
With sharpened spikes to form-fit through your hand
Twisted thorns for a crown.

--Hang you Upside Down, from The Lean Years Tradition

The lyrics of The Lean Years Tradition can all be found HERE.

Great Missionaries to the Muslim World: Temple Gairdner

Temple Gairdner (1873-1928) was an Anglican priest, born in Scotland and educated in Oxford. He was a real trail blazer during his ministry in Cairo, which was then the center of culture and life in the entire Arab world. He produced plays about Biblical figures (like Joseph) and invited Muslims to watch, he also wrote the first grammar of colloquial Egyptian Arabic (that is, not Classical Arabic but the actual language spoken in daily life on the streets of Cairo). The teaching of colloquial dialects would later go on to influence figures like George Kelsey who worked in Jordan. Gairdner was also quite explicit in his focus on evangelizing Muslims rather than simply assimilating Othodox Christians into the fledgling Anglican churches of his time.

A good quote on his approach to ministry:

He was one who saw the need to fuse the evangelistic zeal for the people of the earth with loyalty to the historical catholic heritage. Resisting the shibboleths of the ultra-evangelical and Anglo-Catholic sectors of the church, Gairdner sought to reconcil [sic] and relate his energizing experience to the full life within the church.

Christian Mission to Muslims
Lyle L. Vander Werff, p. 189
William Carey Library 1977

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Return of Jesus (Issa) son of Mary in Islam

Hadith - Sahih Bukhari 4.657, Narrated Abu Huraira, r.a.

Allah's Apostle said, "By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, surely (Jesus,) the son of Mary will soon descend amongst you and will judge mankind justly (as a Just Ruler); he will break the Cross and kill the pigs and there will be no Jizya (i.e. taxation taken from non-Muslims). Money will be in abundance so that nobody will accept it, and a single prostration to Allah (in prayer) will be better than the whole world and whatever is in it." Abu Huraira added "If you wish, you can recite (this verse of the Holy Book): 'And there is none Of the people of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians) But must believe in him (i.e Jesus as an Apostle of Allah and a human being) Before his death. And on the Day of Judgment He will be a witness Against them."

Abu Daoud says: that there will be no jizya means that there will be no more Christians or Jews. In other words the return of Jesus will result in the destruction of some of the Ahl al Kitaab and the conversion of the others to Islam.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The sword and the "the clumsiness of Muhammed's miracles"

Had the people been more civilized, the clumsiness of Muhammed’s miracles [the verses of the Qur’an] must in themselves have frustrated his purpose. But […] the angel Gabriel most most providentially forbade discussion or controversy, and the swords of his associates effected the rest. He knew that his religion was weak in spiritual strength, and he called upon his people to defend it with the strength of their arms.

Thomas Wright, p. 166
Early Christianity in Arabia
London 1855

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Who's who in Early Church History?

Take the test, it's short and fun. I scored eight out of ten. And you?

HERE.

The Created Quran and the Mu'tazilites

The Mu'tazilites were the early Muslim rationalists (well, kind of), and they held that the Quran was created. They lost out in the long run, but the Mu'tazilite Controversy was formative for all subsequent Islam (like the Arian Controversy for Christians). The Arian controversy originated in Alexandria and the Mu'tazilite controversy in Basra.

...the Mu‘tazilites concluded that the Qur’an had been created (makhluq). The argument may be reconstructed as follows: if the Qur’an is God’s speech, then it is either coeternal with God, and thus uncreated, or it is not coeternal with God. To maintain pure monotheism one must concede that it is created. On this inference, if the Qur’an is coeternal with God, then in order to eschew plurality in the divine
oneness, one has to say that the scripture, as God’s speech, is one with
God. To avoid affirming contraries (unity and multiplicity), a Mu‘tazilite
would assert that it is not coeternal with God and must therefore be
created. This argument is seconded by qur’anic proof-texts that point to
the descent of revelation in the Arabic tongue that is constrained by
place and time, as to its accessibility to finite human apprehension.


The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology, Ch. 6

Friday, December 05, 2008

Islamic Philosophy is Islamic heresy

Much is made of the great age of Islamic philosophy and these figures (al Kindi, Avicenna, Farabi) are often held up to demonstrate the intellectual fruitfulness of Islam. But we must remember that these individuals are, by contemporary standards, heretics. In the end there was never an ability to reconcile revelation and reason and Islamic orthodoxy committed itself to revelation over reason from then on. Here is a short section on Farabi:

[...] Al-Farabi [flourished] in the tenth century. He argued that philosophers become aware of the truth through logical demonstrations and their own insight. Non-philosophers know truth and reality by symbols. Thus, philosophy is the highest form of knowledge. Since revealed truth is manifest through symbols, he concluded that one religion could not be suitable for all people and in any case is subordinate to philosophy. He linked the neoplatonist concept of the one with Aristotle's first cause as a self-thinking intellect or mind as well as with Allah. He claimed, in his commentaries on Plato's Republic, that the ideal ruler would be both a philosopher and a prophet. But he maintained that since no such Caliph was likely the philosopher and the politician should work closely together.

There is something outrageous in a culture that is not committed to the idea of a rational universe turning to Aristotle for an answer to the problem of truth.
But the Faylasufs [Muslim philosophers] were a temporary phenomena of the ninth and tenth centuries. They began their deliberations with the idea that the world was a rational creation of Allah, and that did not require a rational God. If what he created was rational then reasoning was an avenue to its understanding.


William H. Provost, Ch. 5
God Science and Reason

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Peter Pikkert on The Great Experiment

This is also from the most recent issue of St Francis Magazine, which has some tantalizing articles. The Great Experiment was the primary missionary effort to the Muslim world for over two centuries and in this book review its main idea is outlined. I have read the book and it is quite good. If you don't feel like reading the entire book at least check out the book review over at SFM.

Anyway, a quote from Miller's review of Pikkert's book "Protestant Missionaries in the Middle East":

His main target is the so-called Great Experiment. When Protestant missionaries arrived in the area in the early 1800’s they soon decided that direct evangelization of local Muslims was too dangerous and difficult; thus was born the Great Experiment, whereby missionaries would revive what they saw as the moribund churches of the land—whether Maronite, Armenian, Greek Orthodox, Coptic, or what have you. These churches would be resurrected in the image of Western Protestant evangelicalism with all its iconoclastic and individualistic trappings. In other words, they were largely ambassadors of their culture—even to the other Christians. So schools, orphanages, clinics, printing presses and hospitals were all established, mostly with the aim of reviving the Christian communities. Pikkert argues that this behavior was suspicious to the local rulers, making their communities highly visible when they had managed to survive over the centuries largely by not being auspicious. Consequentially the various genocides and mass emigrations from the Middle East and Asia Minor over the centuries can be attributed, at least in part, to this misguided Great Experiment.

Not only that, the Great Experiment quite clearly did not work. While it did result eventually in the founding of Protestant churches composed mostly of OBP’s (Orthodox-background Protestants), it should not be surprising to anyone that even these Westernized Christians had little interest after centuries of mistrust and isolation in suddenly flinging wide the gates of the churches to Turkish and Arab Muslims converts.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Abu Daoud: Mission and Sacrament II (section)

[This is part of the text of an article I wrote for St. Francis Magazine which can be found HERE. Part I can be found HERE.--AD]

[...]Take a look at the pillars of Islam. While Muslims do not use the language of sacrament, they certainly have the concept, though in an incomplete manner. (For ultimately the fullness of the sacramentality of Creation cannot be grasped without the incarnation). Because the sacramental principle is distorted but present in Islam, one ends up with the rather crude and instrumentalist language regarding forgiveness of sins: that if one does this or that then certain sins will be forgiven. Forgiveness in Islam is not the reconciliation of mercy and justice as it is in Christianity: it tends more towards a sort of randomness and, some might say, capriciousness on the part of Allah. The two are related of course. Because there is no reconciliation of justice and mercy in a body—a human body which is “sacrificed for us” and “takes away the sins of the world”—there can be nothing higher than capriciousness which oscillates between mercy and justice without really dealing with either of them in a concrete way.

Nevertheless Islam is filled with rituals and there can be no doubt that through these concrete rituals—and much attention is given to form—mercy and forgives can be earned, though one is seldom assured that they have been imparted. To bring a person from Islam into Christianity is to bring them from one set of signs and symbols into another. This is true even if we are using the phraseology of the Kingdom of God and Islamic vocabulary. Islam already has a ritual washing which is performed by devout Muslims quite frequently. Baptism is an alternate ritual washing, performed once.

The community of the Kingdom of God has a ritual meal which is celebrated on a regular basis by those who have made the required confession of faith (in baptism). It is not a sacrifice of a living animal, as is the Islamic ritual sacrifice-meal (Eid al Adha); also, it is performed more often (in Acts daily, and until the 16th C. weekly). The Islamic sacrificial meal is a memorial of a grand sacrifice provided by Allah whereby Abraham’s son was spared: it and the meal celebrate and recall filial obedience. The ritual sacrifice-meal among the subjects of the Kingdom is similar, but not identical. For one, it is always a participation, a going-back-to and a reliving of one sacrifice that was made at a specific point in time (under Pontius Pilate) in a specific way (he was crucified, dead, and buried) on a given hill near Zion. There too is a theme of filial obedience. In the Quran the son of Abraham knows ahead of time that his father will kill him, unlike in the Genesis narrative. Yet he goes with him to meet this fate. In a more dramatic and lengthier narrative we have a similar story in the Gospels. But the ultimate end of the sacrifice is not only obedience for the sake of obedience, but obedience for the sake of reconciling all Creation to God. Another way to put it is this: to preserve the justice and mercy of God through the sacrament of Jesus’ body. [...]


Abu Daoud. 'Mission and Sacrament, Part II' in Saint Francis Magazine 4:3, Dec. 2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Jenkins on "Arab scholarship"

From HERE:

In addition, the major contributions of Eastern Christians to the scholarship of medieval Arab societies are not well known. Nestorian, Jacobite, Orthodox and other Christians preserved and translated the science, philosophy and medicine of the ancient world to centers such as Baghdad and Damascus.

"Much of what we call Arab scholarship was in reality Syriac, Persian and Coptic, which is not necessarily Muslim," Jenkins noted. "They were the Christian roots of the Arabic Golden Age."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

BXVI on Paul, Justification, and Sola Fide

Com on y'all, how can you not love this guy?

To be just means simply to be with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Other observances are no longer necessary.

That is why Luther's expression "sola fide" is true if faith is not opposed to charity, to love. Faith is to look at Christ, to entrust oneself to Christ, to be united to Christ, to be conformed to Christ, to his life. And the form, the life of Christ, is love; hence, to believe is to be conformed to Christ and to enter into his love. That is why, in the Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul develops above all his doctrine on justification; he speaks of faith that operates through charity (cf. Galatians 5:14).

Paul knows that in the double love of God and neighbor the whole law is fulfilled.


BXVI, Bishop of Rome

min rujuu3: Abu Daoud is back

It's hard to keep a good man down, and sometimes it's moderately difficult to keep a man who tries to be good down too. That having been said, I'm back. I have a rod and screws in my leg and I have more purple on my leg than Barney the dinosaur.

So by all means, continue your prayers, especially for my frame of mind and attitude and sense of vocation bc when stuff like this happens you ask yourself, why have I chosen this way of life? Why not go back to home, get a nice little church or uni job and be more, uh, sedentary? It's also hard to be joyful when going to the fridge for a glass of water has become a great chore. Pls also pray for good sleep, that is perhaps most important of all.

For whatever it's worth this Afghani guy who was there after the car hit me came to visit a few times at the hospital though he did not know me from Adam. He is fluent in Arabic, which is not a language spoken in Afghanistan of course. His wife is a Haafidha, meaning she has memorized the Qur'an, so we had wonderful conversations there in the hospital ward in real Classical Arabic (which most Arabs can't do) to the surprise of the other folks there--me, all hopped up on morphine trying to talk about the meaning of 'redemption' (fida'). Pathetic--but not in a bad way.

But praise the Lord for the staff there, and for the folks at my U who were very understanding and helpful, and for all the people who helped me out while in London (a cty where I know very very few people). And for socialized health care. I'm a believer now.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Prayer for Abu Daoud

From Umm Daoud -- I don't usually post here, but Abu Daoud was injured in a car accident a couple of days ago. He is in the hospital and has recently undergone surgery for a broken leg, but is expected to make a full recovery. Please lift up your prayers to the Great Healer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Arabs invented zero!

Well, not quite:

The addition of zero as a tenth positional digit is documented from the 7th century by Brahmagupta, though the earlier Bakhshali Manuscript, written sometime before the 5th century, also included zero.

As it was from the Arabs that the Europeans learned this system, the Europeans called them Arabic numerals; ironically, to this day the Arabs refer to their numerals as Indian numerals. In academic circles they are called the Hindu-Arabic or Indo-Arabic numerals.


Check it all out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Aquinas and Al Ghazali

Don has a very interesting post over at Positive Infinity which discusses the (almost) contemporary geniuses Thomas Aquinas and Al Ghazali. Al Ghazali wrote "The Incoherence of the Philosophers" and more or less killed critical thought in Islam. Oops. He is a seminal figure in Islamic thought. Comparing him to Aquinas is not inappropriate.

A selection:

Turning to that, the Qur’an has an unbending consistency in setting forth the absolute sovereignty of God. Many of the self-imposed limitations (and we emphasise the phrase, "self-imposed," we still hold that God is omniscient and omnipresent) of God as he interacts with his creation are out the window: goodness, caring and love for his creation and people, allowing his creatures free will, just about anything. Allah does as he pleases, and our only response is to submit. Such a concept leaves little room for anything else. This is why the two religions–and civilisations–went in two different directions.

Read it all.

Blog of Note: Cairo, Part 2

Every now and then it's important to come out of the rarefied clouds of academia and just hear the voice of someone living life in the Middle East. So I commend to you Cairo, Part 2, a blog kept by a student at AUC whom I have never met, incidentally. But she has a nice way of writing and posts pictures every now and then.

Part of a recent post discusses the growing problem of groping:


I was walking down the road and a man was walking toward me. As often happens, I noticed that he was not going to allow much extra space to remain between us as he walked by. I tensed up and used my peripheral vision to moniter his location, and as he passed me he reached out his arm, intending to hit my butt. I have no idea how I managed to move out of the way so quickly--I leaped onto the sidewalk, dodged his hand, and kept walking. He continued as though nothing had happened, as did I. He didn't turn around to try again. He didn't come after me. It all happened so quickly that it took me a second to realize what had just happened. To see him continue on his way through my peripheral vision. To collect my inner self, which was so much at odds with my exterior at that moment, the Bethany that never even paused in her measured walk to the metro station. And at the same time that all this was happening, a car passed us and the young driver looked up at me from the window. I couldn't read his expression, and he didn't say anything to me. But there was a moment of strange connection, a bizarre understanding of sorts that bound the three of us together in this sick game, whose rules we all know too well.


Also, check out pictures of the new AUC campus.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A few pictures from Saint Andrew's, Scotland




Finally figured out how to get pictures from my phone camera onto my laptop. It was actually really easy. I'm embarrassed. Some pictures of the Saint Andrew's right here:

Egypt's faded glory and Islamization

Not to make the connection to closely, but note that the greatness of Egypt was prior to its Islamization. Note the same thing with Constantinople: it was the worlds leader in art, theology and science--before Islam. One might point out other cities (Carthage?), or the reverse direction: Israel has become a leader in technology, education and economics, but only after it was partially de-Islamized and rule was given to the British Mandate and the ultimately it achieved sovereignty. In Egypt's case (as in all the cases above actually) note that the successes were achieved not only by non-Muslims but by entirely different ethnic groups. It was the Copts who built the pyramids, not the Arabs. Again, don't make too much out of all this, each example is fairly complex, but it is worth noting.

This pattern will be replicated as Europe continues to be Islamized: decline in all areas: economics, rule of law, education, art, science, and so on.

[...]The pyramids are proof of Egypt's endurance and what distinguishes it from modern confections, like Saudi Arabia, a nation founded 76 years ago, named after a family and built on oil wealth. But these monuments to Egypt's early ingenuity are also an ever-present symbol of faded glory. It is hard to escape comparisons between an Egypt that once led the world in almost everything and modern Egypt, where about 40 percent of the population lives on $2 a day.

"Can you believe our government can do nothing for us, and this thing that was built thousands of years ago is still helping me feed my family?" Ahmed Sayed Baghali, 49, said as he sat in a plastic chair selling postcards to tourists outside the Egyptian Museum here, which displays millenniums of antiquities. "Who would buy my things if they were not about the pharaohs? People come here from very far to see the pyramids, not to see Cairo."[...]


From IHT.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Early churches and mission to Islam

It is often said that the church's practice of having specific buildings is counter-productive in terms of Islamdom. The idea is that when you have a structure you have something to make you identifiable and visible, which makes you less resistant to persecution. There is a good point there--the more you have to lose the more worried about buildings and facilities you will be.

On the other hand, it is clear that very early on there was property that was in the hands of the church, for example certain tombs in Carthage c. 200 AD belonged to the church. They would go there and, at the cemetery, on the tomb, celebrate communion. Macabre, I know.

There is also a benefit to having a visible presence in a place. If you want a Bible you will often go to a church--one that you have seen in this or that neighborhood. In other words, the strength of a low-visibility home church is also it's weakness--it's not visible to those outside of the community. Not to mention that Muslim governments tend to be highly suspicious of any religious meeting in a home, well you can see that home churches solve some problems and then cause some other.

Good stuff here from CT on the earliest church buildings:

For the most part, the church was dependent on members or supporters (patrons) who owned larger houses, providing a place for meeting. In Rome, there are indications that early Christians met in other public spaces such as warehouses or apartment buildings. Even when there were several meeting sites in a city, the Christians had the sense of being one church. They maintained unity through organization (from the second century on, beginning at different times in different places, one bishop in a city became the center of unity for orthodox Christians there) and symbolic gestures (in Rome, the eucharistic bread was sent from the bishop's church to other assemblies).

Before Emperor Constantine recognized Christianity as a legal religion in 313, corporate ownership of property by the church could be legally ambiguous. It seems that the first property owned by the Roman church were the catacombs. These were not places of meeting, however, but burial sites.

Varieties of Arabic and English

Well, my time here in Scotland is drawing near to an end and then back to the Middle East. I was fortunate last night to met two Libyan guys and we conversed for a good while. Of course the Libyan dialect is a good bit different from what I'm used to, but I spoke with them in Classical Arabic which often times evokes the response, "You speak Arabic better than I do!" Which is not correct--at least not in an kind of practical way. Being able to have a conversation in Classical Arabic impresses people, and they will usually understand me fairly well, but it's just not that helpful.

In other news I ran across this website where an American student in Scotland talks about settling in here and he has a bunch of great pictures of the city of Edinburgh, which is the most beautiful city in Scotland I have yet seen. Glasgow is nice. Sterling is also quite pretty but rather small. Saint Andrew's is as beautiful as Edinburgh, but is not really large enough to be called a city. I have been to a few other places as well. Maybe I will actually post pictures some day.

In any case here is Stephen's commentary on the differences in usage we have RE the word vest and waistcoat:

waistcoat/vest - Okay, this I learned because of some confusion. I went clubbing with some friends (undergrads at the University here, one of whom is in my Greek and Hebrew courses with me), and as we were walking back, they were talking about how bad the "guy wearing the vest" looked. I was confused: I saw the guy in the vest, and thought he looked quite classy. I voiced this opinion, and they stared at me dumbfoundedly. So as we passed a store window and saw vests on display, I said "Yeah, that right there, he was wearing something like that, and it looked good. I wear vests when I want to look more dressed up." My friends proceeded to laugh at me, because what we in the States call "vests" they call "waistcoats." "Vests, " here, are what we call tanktops, or wifebeaters. And I explained to my friends (all from England) that their terminology was inaccurate and stupid, and they just laughed more. So I spent the rest of the walk home doing crappy imitations of their British accents, to more laughter.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

People You should Know: Karl Pfander

Karl Pfander is a giant in the history of Christian mission to the Muslim world. I mean, he's way up there, with guys like Sam Zwemer and Henry Martyn and Temple Gairdner. You know, just a notch below Blessed Raymond Lull (Ramón Lull), who is just a notch below Our Lord.

When you deal with life in the Middle East, you need heroes.

Pfander's brilliance was displayed in what is still one of the most important Christian refutations of Islam, The Balance of Truth, aka, mizan ulhaqq. A section from Wikipedia on his life and work:

[...]Pfander's chief legacy to posterity is undoubtedly his book Mizan ul Haqq (The Balance of Truth), modelled on the style of Islamic theological works, and attempting to present the Christian gospel in a form understandable to Muslims. He offered reasons to believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, neither corrupted nor superseded, and argued that the Qur’an itself testifies to the reliability of the Christian scriptures and the supremacy of Christ. He attempted to prove from the Qur’an and other Islamic writings some alleged [fallacies] in Islam and its prophet, noting a historic contrast between the violence of Islamic expansion and the peaceable spread of the early church. The Mizan ul Haqq stimulated a number of carefully argued refutations from Islamic scholars, followed by further writings from Pfander himself. It marked an important new phase in Muslim / Christian relations, when profound theological issues were addressed for the first time by recognised scholars.

In his history of the CMS, Eugene Stock described Pfander as "the greatest of all missionaries to Mohammedans." Temple Gairdner remarked that Pfander possessed the three great requisites for public controversy: absolute command of his subject, absolute command of the language, thought and manner of the people, and absolute command of himself. Samuel Zwemer defended his dogmatic and controversial methods, pointing out that Christ and his apostles engaged in similar public debate with individuals and crowds.[...]


[Abu Daoud is listening to Come on Pilgrim by the Pixies.]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Blood Atonement in Shi'a Islam

From HERE:

Islam is divided into many sects, the two major ones being the Sunnis and the Shias. The original split between the latter two was over the question of who should succeed Muhammad as leader of the community. The Shias felt the leader should come from Muhammad's family; the Sunnis thought he should be someone of noted piety elected by and from Muhammad's closest companions. The Sunnis won with the first three successors; then the Shias, or party of Ali, assumed the leadership. But Ali was martyred, as were his only two sons (more on this shortly).

Down through the centuries, the Shias usually lost out in these power struggles. This led to their taking on the nature of a protest movement against the corrupt Sunni leaders. Inevitably, to justify their separate minority identity, they developed theological doctrines that radically differed from those of the Sunnis on at least two major points: the idea of martyrdom and the idea of divine light indwelling their leaders. Both these beliefs open up Shias to Christian witness in a way not possible among the Sunnis.

Martyrdom for the cause of the people is memorialized in the Shia calendar year during their lunar month of Muharram. Of the three martyrs mentioned above -- Ali (Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law) and Ali's two sons, Hasan and Husayn (Muhammad's grandsons) -- that of Husayn is celebrated annually. The first ten days of the month of Muharram are dedicated to "passion plays" that retell the story of Husayn's betrayal and courageous stand, facing overwhelming odds, against the ruling house of Mecca (the Umayyids). On the tenth day, it is common for parades of self-flagellating men to beat themselves until the blood flows, lamenting the failure of the people to come to the defense of their beloved leader.

This brings us to the key point: Shias believe that the shed blood of their slain leader atones for their sins. They accept the concept of atonement -- an idea totally unacceptable to the Sunnis. Of all the approaches I've seen Christians use in witnessing to the Shias, the most effective is through films depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. (By the way, unlike Sunnis, Shias accept art forms depicting human beings, and practice drama.) I have seen them weep profusely while viewing such films. Afterwards, it is easy to speak to them of the deep spiritual meaning of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.


--Don McCurry

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Kenneth Cragg on Apostasy (Rida, Irtidad) and Islam as a prison

A faith which you are not free to leave becomes a prison, and no self-respecting faith should be a prison for those within it.

Kenneth Cragg

(qtd. in Pikkert, Peter. 2008. Protestant Missionaries to the Middle East: Ambassadors of Christ or Culture? Hamilton, Ontario: WEC Canada. p. 134.)

Kenneth Cragg on Islam and self-idolatry

Kenneth Cragg, one-time asst. Anglican bishop in Jerusalem, is a giant in the field of Islamics and religious dialog. Here is great quote:

The urge to go forward in the custody of revelation with the patterns of authority familiar to this world [that is, the use of political and juridical coercion--AD] may easily miss the measure of the human problem, then length of men's self-idolatry, the chronic pride and defiance of the Divine, the insistent autonomy of mankind.


Kenneth Cragg
Christianity in World Perspective

Friday, November 07, 2008

Converts from Islam perscuted in W. Europe

Yep, in Western Europe. The press doesn't like to talk about it though bc it is an inconvenient truth.

[...]A few weeks ago, an immigrant from Iraq was knifed in the Dutch town of Rolde by another immigrant from Iraq. The victim was a former Muslim who had converted to Christianity; the assailant was a Muslim who took offense. Though similar events recently occurred in Rotterdam, Zutphen and Hengelo, the Dutch media prefer not to report them, the documentary said.

A former Muslim, who wished to remain anonymous because of the danger, told Dutch television that after his conversion to Christianity his car had been bashed with iron bars and stones thrown through the windows of his house. In one incident a Turk tried to assassinate his sister who had become a Christian. An asylum seeker from Iraq was told by the police to move to an undisclosed location. A Moroccan girl was also advised by the authorities to relocate.

One Christian convert received a telephone call from the local imam who threatened him with Koran verses calling for the death of apostates. “I am afraid, not just for myself, but also for the lives of my wife and children,” he said. Muslims who become Christians and subsequently try to convert others take serious risks, the police has warned. Nevertheless, many Muslim converts feel it to be their Christian duty to tell their family and friends of Jesus’ love for them.[...]


Read it all HERE.

Child marriage and divorce in Yemen

A sign of hope that this cruel process will perhaps not cease, but at least become less common in Yemen--one of the least developed countries in the entire world. Also, it's one of the countries with the highest birthrates in the world. Over three times more children per woman are born there than in any of the countries of West, last I heard.

A narrow path leads up from the mountain town of Jibla, through century-old houses, and turns into a mud track before reaching the door of Arwa's home.

The nine year old child lives with her parents and six brothers and sisters in a humble, two-roomed house overlooking the mosque built by her namesake, Queen Arwa, who ruled Yemen 900 years ago.

She knows nothing of wealth and power but, in her own way, she has helped make history.

Arwa is the youngest of three Yemeni girls who recently went to court complaining they were married against their will and asking for divorce - an astonishing display of defiance that has prompted the government to review its law on early marriage. [...]


From the BBC. But let me also point out that the official law of Yemen hardly matters at all. It is a country ruled according to the will of the local elder, that is, it is much more of feudal society than a centralized, modern nation state. So even if the law is changed it will matter little. But still, every little step helps.

Pray for Yemen.

Monday, November 03, 2008

13-yeard old rape victim sentenced to death under Islamic Shari'a

Note that this took place in a STADIUM:

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- A 13-year-old girl who said she had been raped was stoned to death in Somalia after being accused of adultery by Islamic militants, a human rights group said.

Dozens of men stoned Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow to death Oct. 27 in a stadium packed with 1,000 spectators in the southern port city of Kismayo, Amnesty International and Somali media reported, citing witnesses. The Islamic militia in charge of Kismayo had accused her of adultery after she reported that three men had raped her, the rights group said.

Initial local media reports said Duhulow was 23, but her father told Amnesty International she was 13. [...]


From CNN.

Somalia is both the most Islamic nation in the world (measured by % of population) and the most lawless nation in the world.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

American Elections abroad

OK, this is from the uni where I am working on my PhD in Scotland. It's quite fascinating to see how interested other folks are in the US elections:

Obama Vs McCain Food Fight
After much Wikipedia based research our top chefs have developed a range of pizzas and burgers to honour the history of these two great Americans. From Monday 27th October you can support your candidate through the medium of Pizza in KB House or Burger in [the Student] bar.

The Obama
The Hawaiian influences will come through strong in the range, with a grilled chicken breast burger delicately topped with pineapple. Plus a ham and pineapple pizza with a Chicago style sweet bbq sauce.

The McCain
A man of the deep south, with a touch of latin influences. A burger topped with real bacon, Monterey jack cheese and smothered in spicy bbq sauce. With the pizzas covered in chorizo sausage, fresh chilli and another dose of Monterey Jack cheese.

The Results
For election results night, [the student union] will be open all night long for the election results on the big screen, with highly caffeinated drinks available once the bars close at 3am. Then just before the US has their say, we will announce the student choice for President of the free world.


Ha! Which one sounds better to you? I they both sound good, but would probably go with the The McCain because I like anything with beef that is also spicy.

Islam in Sub-Saharan Africa and Slavery

In his polemic against Islam, Richardson advances an interesting theory. He wonders why sub-Saharan Africa was not Islamized given that N. Africa and the Horn of Africa had been Islamized for many centuries by the time that the Christian missions and later the AIC's started winning millions upon millions of converts in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

His answer is that the Muslims were all slavers, given that the Quran clearly endorses slavery (and in fact has an entire chapter called The Slaves) and that the Prophet himself owned slaves, they only were able to Islamize the black Africans with whom they worked to enslave other Africans.

Had mullahs opposed slavery instead of condoning it, they could have ranged freely from Timbuktu almost to Cape Town, opening mosques and establishing Islamic school in the region. In short, they could have Islamized all of Africa, not just a fringe above and below the Sahara and on the coast of Zanzibar. (Richardson 203)

Secrets of the Koran by Don Richardson.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Doing theology today

I read this and it reminded me of writing/reading theology today. From the genius and slightly-weird Lewis Carrol:

`So here's a question for you. How old did you say you were?'

Alice made a short calculation, and said `Seven years and six months.'

`Wrong!' Humpty Dumpty exclaimed triumphantly. `You never said a word like it!'

`I thought you meant "How old are you?"' Alice explained.

`If I'd meant that, I'd have said it,' said Humpty Dumpty.

Yes, the Virgin Mary needed a savior

A common confusion I run into. Not that it makes the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception entirely palatable:

Another misunderstanding is that by her immaculate conception, Mary did not need a saviour. On the contrary, when defining the dogma in Ineffabilis Deus, Pope Pius IX affirmed that Mary was redeemed in a manner more sublime. He stated that Mary, rather than being cleansed after sin, was completely prevented from contracting Original Sin in view of the foreseen merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the human race. In Luke 1:47, Mary proclaims: "My spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour." This is referred to as Mary's pre-redemption by Christ.

From, of course, Wikipedia.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sleepless in Tehran

From the ineffable Thomas L. Friedman:

Have you seen the reports that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is suffering from exhaustion? It's probably because he is not sleeping at night. I know why. Watching oil prices fall from $147 a barrel to $57 is not like counting sheep. It's the kind of thing that gives an Iranian autocrat bad dreams.

After all, it was the collapse of global oil prices in the early 1990s that brought down the Soviet Union. And Iran today is looking very Soviet to me.


From HERE.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Allam to BXVI: Islam is not inherently good

Someone telling the truth to the Pope about Islam? And disagreeing with a high-placed Cardinal? What's going on these days?

...Allam told Pope Benedict he specifically objected to Cardinal Tauran telling a conference in August that Islam itself promotes peace but that "'some believers' have 'betrayed their faith,'" using it as a pretext for violence.

"The objective reality, I tell you with all sincerity and animated by a constructive intent, is exactly the opposite of what Cardinal Tauran imagines," Allam told the pope. "Islamic extremism and terrorism are the mature fruit" of following "the sayings of the Quran and the thought and action of Mohammed."

Allam said he was writing with the "deference of a sincere believer" in Christianity and as a "strenuous protagonist, witness and builder of Christian civilization."[...]

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

France: it's the new Lebanon

Ya rrab! Philip Jenkins sure sounds Apocalyptic when he says stuff like this. And note that he speaks of a shrinking wealthy population and growing poor one. Um, Pakistanis in the UK? N. Africans in France? Turks in Germany? Sounds like most of Europe to me:

I have an image in my mind from Lebanon. I don't know how many of you remember some of the images of that war but some of them were so much from a science-fiction fantasy. The key battle in Beirut in 1976 was the battle of the Holiday Inn, and you have the battles of the hotels, when Shiite militias finally put enough cannon in the Ramada to take out the Holiday Inn. Sometimes I wonder if something like that might be a face of civil conflict in Europe. However, I would be most alarmed not where you necessarily have a growing population or a shrinking population, but where a growing poor population meets a shrinking rich population. That to me would seem to be a Lebanon in the making.

And we know how the Lebanese story is ending: the Christians lost.

Muslim Youth Bulge meets Fertility Collapse in Europe

Philip Jenkins predicts that Europe is the "most potentially troubled area of the world."

The most important thing I would like to add to the discussion has to do with troubled areas of the world. I think we might be missing the most important potentially troubled area of the world, Europe, because what you have there is a classic Lebanese situation of a youth bulge population colliding with a youth collapse situation. If you want to understand just how dramatic the youth collapse is in Europe, think about this: why has Europe in the last 10 or 20 years not produced mass anti-immigrant movements, mass paramilitary forces or violent militias directed against immigration? The answer is that the sort of teenagers and young adults who would be expected to form those groups--the skinhead militias--aren't there.

So European politics increasingly represent this clash between, as I say, a youth bulge population and a youth collapse population and I would suggest that the potential for conflict, if anywhere, is there. One of my hobbyhorses where I would underline the greatest single danger of recruitment to the radical Islamist cause is the prisons, the most dangerous sources of recruitment and propaganda.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Orthodox website for Muslims

Those of you who read this blog often will know that I frequently lament the lack of witness by Catholics and Orthodox to Muslims. The exception is the Coptic Church, at least in some places. Here is a website that answers Muslims' questions from an Orthodox point of view on everything from the Holy Scripture to Theotokos to the nature of miracles. It is, thankfully, not snarky and stuck-up like so many Orthodox theology sites run by Americans.

The Awakening


It is, thankfully, also in Arabic, which is quite nice if you have an Arab Muslim friend who is perhaps not excellent with the English language.

Grammar of the Quran

A nice quote here from Ali Dashti, a scholar of Islam:

"The Qur'an contains sentences which are incomplete and not fully intelligible without the aid of commentaries; foreign words, unfamiliar Arabic words, and words used with other than the normal meaning; adjectives and verbs inflected without observance of the concords of gender and number; illogically and ungrammatically applied pronouns which sometimes have no referent; and predicates which in rhymed passages are often remote from the subjects. These and other such aberrations in the language have given scope to critics who deny the Qur'an's eloquence. The problem also occupied the minds of devout Moslems. It forced the commentators to search for explanations and was probably one of the causes of disagreement over readings"

Twenty Three Years: A study of the Prophetic Career of Muhammad

pp. 48, 49
London 1985

Malmo, Sweden?

Ran across this quote:

Sweden’s third largest city is Malmo and for all intents and purposes is ruled by violent Muslim gangs. Some of its Muslim residents have lived there as long as 20 years and still cannot read or write Swedish. Muslims succeeded into turning a first world city into another third world, like the countries they came from.

I'm wondering if anyone has been to Malmo recently. My sense that the most rapidly Islamizing city in W. Europe was Marseilles, not Malmo. If anyone has been to either city I would be glad to hear what your impressions were.

The entire article where I got this quote is online and is pretty, um, discouraging. But it is worth a read even though it was written a few years ago.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Islam, Apologetics, and 'the weight of critical investigation'

…during most of the 1400 years since Mohammed’s time Muslims have enjoyed such total control in North Africa and the Middle East that few people ever dared ask them to justify anything. Times are different now, and Muslims are trying to develop apologetic skills. But they have yet to encounter the full weight of critical investigation of which free Western minds are capable. In other words, the ground has just begun to heat up under Islam’s feet.

Don Richardson, Secrets of the Koran, p. 35
Regal, 2003

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Part XIX: Islam is a Civilization, not a Religion

Part XIX: Islam is a Civilization, not a religion
by Abu Daoud

The word religion is spectacularly Western. It comes from the Latin meaning “to re-connect” or to form a link that has been severed. It is popular in the USA, and perhaps in the UK, to say that Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship. Neither is entirely correct though: Christianity is indeed a religion, but it is relational as well. Christianity does indeed seek to re-connect (or reconcile, to use a more biblical word) two warring parties: God and man. And it does this through the cross of the God-man, Jesus Christ, God incarnate.

But what of Islam? Is it a religion? Does it seek to reconnect two estranged parties?

The word normally used in Arabic to translate the English-Latin word religion is “diin.” But if we look at that word we find a very different understanding of the relation between humanity and God/Allah than we would via the other word, religion.

The Arabic word diin is a gerund, and it is based on the verb daan, which means, in its root form, (he) judged. In fact we find this confirmed in no less a prayer than the opening chapter of the Quran (al fatiha—the opening), wherein we read that “your is the day of diin” or “yours is the day of judgment.” So in Arabic Islam (which, make no mistake, is the true Islam) diin is nothing less than judgment.

This moves us towards the true understand that the English word ‘religion’ quite simply has no translation in Arabic. If wish to translate the word ‘reconciliation’ we may use the fairly accurate word tasalluh, which does indeed mean to reconcile two inimical parties. But for the word ‘religion’ we would have to resort to fairly exotic contrivances like ‘ta3alluq’ or something along those lines.

I mention this all simply because I have noticed the very pernicious effect of mistranslations. Words have a great deal of power. I bring up the topic because one hears often among Western politicians the idea of “secularism” among Arab or Persian Muslim peoples, wherein one separates religion from civil rule. When we understand that the truly Islamic-Arabic understanding does not, and can not, separate religious rule from civil rule, we have moved a step towards being able to intelligently grapple in a realistic way with the sundry challenges faced by people in the diverse countries of Southwest Asia and North Africa. Religion involves judgment (diin). Civil rule involves judgment (diin) as well. There is no separation, and within an Islamic civilization separation of the two is neither desirable nor possible.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sterling Hayden on Life, the Voyage, and Financial Unrest

To be truly challenging, a voyage, like life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen, who play with their boats at sea - “cruising” it is called. Voyaging belongs to sailors, and to wanderers of the world who can not fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.

'I’ve always wanted to sail the South Seas, but I can’t afford it.' What these men can’t afford is NOT to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of 'security.' And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine - and before we know it our lives are gone.

What does a man need - really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat, shelter, six feet to lie down in - and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all - in the material sense. And we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade.

The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it the tomb is sealed.

Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?

--Sterling Hayden

Monday, October 20, 2008

Salafi Islam growing throughout MENA and the world

From the AP:

[...] Sara Soliman and her businessman husband, Ahmed el-Shafei, both received the best education Egypt had to offer, first at a German-run school, then at the elite American University in Cairo. But they have now chosen the Salafi path.

"We were losing our identity. Our identity is Islamic," 27-year-old Soliman said from behind an all-covering black niqab as she sat with her husband in a Maadi restaurant.

"In our (social) class, none of us are brought up to be strongly practicing," added el-Shafei, also 27, in American-accented English, a legacy of a U.S. boyhood. Now, he and his wife said, they live Islam as "a whole way of life," rather than just a set of obligations such as daily prayers and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.

A dozen satellite TV channels, most Saudi-funded, are perhaps Salafism's most effective vehicle. They feature conservative preachers, call-in advice shows and discussion programs on proper Islamic behavior.

Cairo's many Salafist mosques are packed on Fridays. Outside Shaeriyah mosque, a bookstall featured dozens of cassettes by Mohammed Hasaan, a prolific conservative preacher who sermonizes on the necessity of jihad and the injustices inflicted on Muslims.

Alongside the cassettes, a book titled "The Sinful Behaviors of Women" displayed lipstick, playing cards, perfumes and cell phones on the cover. Another was titled "The Excesses of American Hubris."

Critics of Salafism say it has spread so quickly in part because the Egyptian and Saudi governments encouraged it as an apolitical, nonviolent alternative to hard-line jihadi groups.

These critics warn that the governments are playing with fire — that Salafism creates an environment that breeds extremism. ...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Olympic Mosque in London and concerns over terror

Quite interesting! Are some folks in the Church of England starting to realize that segments of the Islamic community in the West are not, um, huge fans of pluralism and tolerance?

Just maybe...but don't hold your breath. Charges of Islamophobia will come quickly, I have not doubt.

Dr Philip Lewis, an interfaith adviser to the Bishop of Bradford, said that the plans threaten to establish a ghetto of Muslims taught to embrace jihad.

Tablighi Jamaat, the group behind the proposal, are "isolationist", "patriarchal" and has a narrow reading of Islam that leaves it vulnerable to extremists, he said.

In the first intervention by a Church figure over the controversial project, Dr Lewis raised fears that a 12,000-capacity mosque in London would lead to a segregated Muslim community. The mosque would be four times the size of Britain's largest cathedral.

"Tablighi Jamaat does not try to engage with wider society so there must be clear worries that such a mosque would lead to a ghetto," he said.

"The danger is that this becomes a self-contained world, which would be vulnerable to extremists."

The leaders of the liquid bomb plot, who were last month found guilty of conspiracy to kill, attended mosques run by Tablighi Jamaat. Suicide bombers who carried out terrorist attacks in July 2005 also went to meetings held by the group. [...]


From HERE.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Goldziher on the development of 'martyr' (shahiid) in early Islam

What a little gem of a book this is! I am speaking of I. Goldziher's 1902 'Hadith and the New Testament'. He discusses how the word shihaad (martyr) is indeed an Arabic word but that in the Quran itself it does not have the meaning of one who dies for the faith, but rather one that confesses a religion. Of course, fairly soon the tradition develops about dying in jihad and thus becoming a martyr. Goldziher explains how, to counteract this rather destabilizing development, the word 'martyr' was used to describe a large number of different sorts of people:

To the Prophet is ascribed the saying that not only those who are slain for the faith are to be regarded as martyrs. Seven other causes of death are enumerated [...] and these are mainly calamitous or pathological causes, which have nothing to do with voluntary self-sacrifice for a great cause. In later times other causes have been added to these seven. He who dies in defence of his possessions, or far from his home in a strange country; he who meets his death in falling from a high mountain; he who is torn to pieces by wild beasts, and many more, are to be counted in the category of Shuhada.

Ignacz Goldziher, Hadith and the New Testament, pp. 21, 22.
London: SPCK, 1902. Trans. unknown.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Has the pope been reading Islam and Christianity?

Well, my guess is no. But it gratifying that after I complained about the lack of frontier missions in the Catholic Church the good bishop of Rome made a somewhat similar point:

“Only the Word of God can change human hearts at the deepest level,” the pope said this morning.

In that connection, Benedict focused on the link between the Bible and the missionary impulse in Christianity. He distinguished three groups that should be the object of missionary efforts:

• Those who have never heard the gospel;
• Those who have weakened in the faith, and preserve only a superficial contact with the Word of God;
• Those who have become distant from the faith and therefore require a “new evangelization.”

Emphasizing the importance of the Bible, Benedict quoted a famous adage of St. Jerome: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

More broadly, Benedict urged that the synod develop new strategies to draw on the Bible to evangelize broad sectors of culture.


From HERE.

Incidentally, I also wrote a while back that it would be good to see a bishop publicaly announce his support for Muslims who desire to become Christians, and then a month or so later he baptized Magdi Allam. Strange...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What is culture?

One of the books I am reading right now is The New Catholicity: Theology between the Global and the Local, by Robert J. Schreiter. I am only 30-odd pages into it, but he presents compelling definition of culture which I found very helpful. It is an important questions because without such a definition we cannot even start to intelligently address questions about inculturation of the Gospel or the parameters of contextual theology.

[Culture has] three important dimensions. First of all, culture is ideational--it provides systems of frameworks of meaning which serve both to interpret the world and to provide guidance for living in the world. Culture in this deimnsion embodies beliefs, values, attitudes, and rules for behavior. Second, culture is performance--rituals that bind a culture's members together to provide them with a participatory way of embodying and enacting their histories and values. [...] Third, culture is material--the artifacts and symbolizations that become a source for identity: language, food, clothing, music, and the organization of space.

The New Catholicity, p. 29
New York: Orbis Books, 2002

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

WSJ: Short term missions...Vacationaries?

Interesting article here. I have no comment, but let me know what you think.

[...] Short-term mission trips to Africa, South America and Southeast Asia have become very popular in the past few years. They are a keystone strategy of evangelical pastor Rick Warren's plans to help Rwanda. These trips, like Christian missionary endeavors overall, encompass a wide variety of activities, from evangelization and "church planting" to health care and economic development. The billion-dollar question, however, is whether they're worth the cost. Are short-term missions the best way to achieve the goals of Christians? Critics argue that sightseeing often takes up too much of the itinerary, leading some to call short-termers "vacationaries."

It's hard to judge the fairness of this characterization, since almost no one runs the numbers. Estimates of how much churches spend on short-term missions go as high as $4 billion a year, according to the Capital Research Center. The literature is sparse, most of it focusing on the spiritual aspects, for the missionaries themselves. And these aspects are sometimes oversold.

Calvin College sociologist Kurt Ver Beek surveyed U.S. missionaries who built homes in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch in 1998. After coming down from a post-trip "high," the short-termers did not evince much change in their lives. Only 16% reported "significant positive impact," including in prayer, friendships and financial giving. Then Mr. Ver Beek surveyed those whose homes were rebuilt by missionaries and those whose homes were rebuilt by local nongovernmental organizations. He found that there was "little or no difference" in the spiritual response of the beneficiaries.

The economic impact of the Honduras trips seems in line with similar missionary stints: Teams spent $30,000 to build a home, according to Mr. Ver Beek, that would have cost $2,000 to build with local labor. With these kinds of spiritual and economic results, the effectiveness of short-termers in the work of Christian missions is questionable. [...]

Monday, October 13, 2008

Drawings from the Holy Land


One of the obscure books I've read in the last weeks (and I am reading a lot) is Mission Life in Greece & Palestine by Emma Briscoe Baldwin (London, 1885?). It contains a number of nice drawings from cities of that region, a few of which I have scanned and am posting. The artist is not listed and whatever copyright there may have been once is expired as far as I can tell. Enjoy. (Click on them for full-size images and you can read the captions too.)


The Churches of Saudi Arabia

I managed to read almost all of Christianity and Islam in Spain A.D. 756-1031 by C. Haines over the weekend, and it is, well, passable. And number three or four on my reading list is Early Christianity in Arabia by Thomas Wright, so I should know more about the topic within three weeks or so.

But for now I do know of two churches in Saudi Arabia, including one recently discovered one. There is a link HERE on the church in Jeddah, but the site is in Arabic but I guess you can use a translator site if you want. And then there is a 4th C. Assyrian church also, the article is in English with some beautiful pictures HERE.

Technically under shari'a either of these could be rebuilt or repaired into functioning churches. But there is hadith (of questionable authenticity) saying that there should only be one religion in the Gulf, and that is why KSA has not allowed any visible church congregations to exist in the country.

Rumors of War: Israel and Iran

Well, the mob riots in Acre have subsided after four days, which is good. On the other hand we receive news (which seems reasonable) that Israel may well be planning a strike on Iran before the end of the Bush administration, which has been strongly supportive of Israel over the years.

The article is over at the UK site, TimesOnline. One section:

Some key decision makers in Israel fear that unless they attack Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities in the next few months, while George W Bush is still president, there will not be another period when they can rely on the United States as being anywhere near as supportive in the aftermath of a unilateral attack.

In the past 40 years there have been few occasions when I have been more concerned about a specific conflict escalating to involve, economically, the whole world. We are watching a disinformation exercise involving a number of intelligence services. Reality is becoming ever harder to disentangle. [...]

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Quote from Ramon Llull (Raymund Lully)

Blessed Ramon Llull (1235-1315), Missionary to the Muslims and Martyr

"Death has no terrors for a sincere servant of Christ who is laboring to bring souls to a knowledge of the truth."


Can you figure out why this guy is my hero? I mean, he combines the best elements of catholic Christianity, evangelical zeal, and a missio-centric spirituality focused on the unreached--especially Muslims. What more could you want? Oh yeah: he was a married man and lay missionary.

(Abu Daoud is listening to The Division Bell by Pink Floyd. Have you all heard this album? I really like it, what do you think?)

Baptism for Muslims: Syncretism or heterodox practice?

Thanks to a reader for posting this. I have been enjoying reading Religious Syncretism by Eric Maroney over the past few days. If you can pick it up I recommend it, though some of the material on the BVM will make you squirm (especially all of you devout Catholics out there).

But here is an interesting and recent article about Muslims, in fulfilling their vows, taking their children to be "baptized" in fulfilling a specific vow. I will say that I had known about this outside of MENA, but to hear of it happening in Egypt is quite curious, though not entirely surprising given the Holy Family's sojourn there. I will say that sacramentally it is probably not a genuine baptism though. That the priests have built a different room for Muslim baptisms indicate that theologically what is happening is not a regular baptism. It is probably more of an act of dedication and thanksgiving that the priests are willing to help with. Clearly they do not believe that this Muslim baby is truly being grafted into the Church, the body of Christ, through this act. In any case, it would be interesting to explore more this interesting phenomenon.

Baptism brings together Muslims and Christians in Drenka celebrations

ASSIUT: Last month, 49-year-old Om Khaled was on her way to the Virgin Mary Monastery in Drenka, Assiut to baptize her three-month-old son. The Muslim woman, following an age-old tradition in her hometown, was fulfilling a vow to God (nadr) to baptize her son according to Christian rituals if she were to ever get pregnant.

During the monastery celebrations, held every year from Aug. 7 to 21, Muslims making similar vows flock to the monastery, where the Holy Family is believed to have taken refuge during their visit to Egypt. According to Father Yacoub Suleiman, spokesman of the Virgin Mary Monastery, about 40 Muslims seeking to baptize their newborns arrive every day. The number reaches 100 during the last three days of celebrations.

This has led the monastery to build another room dedicated solely to baptizing Muslims, next to the one dedicated to Copts.

Both rooms feature a stone container filled with water, in which babies are immersed three consecutive times. The only difference is the use of the holy oil, referred to as ‘Miron’ in baptizing Christians. The full baptism ritual, including the holy oil, is the first step in the Christian faith. Boys are baptized after 40 days of birth and girls after 80. In the case of converting to Christianity, baptism is not limited to a certain age.

But this difference between the two rooms had led to some objections. Hossam Salman, a 40-year-old Muslim, insisted on baptizing his newborn in the Christian room, with all the rituals intact.

The priests who tried to persuade Salman that there’s no difference between the two rooms, had to find an alternative.

“The priests had to find an alternative because using the Miron oil [during the ritual] would mean that the child is a Christian,” one of the priests told Daily News Egypt. [...]

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Unrest in Acre between Arabs and Jews

This is not sexy enough to make the Western news, I'm guessing, but it's very significant IMHO:

The riots erupted before dawn Wednesday when an Arab resident of the mixed town drove his car into a Jewish neighborhood during the holy day of Yom Kippur, during which even secular Jews refrain from driving out of respect. Jewish rioters alleged that the man defiantly played loud music, and proceeded to assault him, sparking large scale clashes between Jews and Arabs in the area.

Israeli Arab MK Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash) said the incident had less to do with Yom Kippur than a deliberate "escalation of racist speech" ahead of Israeli municipal elections next month.