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Showing posts from March, 2008

Pope Paul VI

Since I'll be blogging Evangelii Nuntiandi for a few days here it is good to have some basic info on the person who issued it. From Wikipedia (where else?):

Pope Paul VI was a troubled figure who angered both traditionalists and liberals. Reviled by traditionalists for implementing the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, he was also a lightning rod for liberals for failing to change the Church's teaching on priestly celibacy, birth control, and the ordination of women. His encyclical On Human Life, which reaffirmed the Church's ban on birth control, was met with a storm of indignation, even within his own Church.

To Venerate or not to Venerate (Icons)

Well, JMW over at All Souls' Anglican blog has been quoting some old church historian (John Mendham?) on why the veneration of icons is in fact (ready?) idol worship. I mean, it's one thing to say it's just not a good idea for some people, or that it's not your bag, but JMW is pretty clear about it: that little statue of Saint Jospeh on your aunt's front lawn makes her an idolater. You are welcome to get into the fray and defend the icons, or hey, if you don't like icons, then defend Mendham and JMW.

The newest entry is here:
Mendham on Images, 2

The first entry is here: Image Worship
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Blogging evangelii nuntiandi

I'm not saying my treatment of evangelii nuntiandi will be exhaustive, but I will be posting on sundry parts of it over the next days. It was written ten years or so after the close of Vatican II by Paul VI.

It starts out wonderfully, with a discussion of the Kingdom and salvation, which are rightly seen as the heart of Jesus' proclamation. Only then does Paul turn a discussion of the church and what was a quite evangelical document shows that it is in its heart quite Catholic (which is not a condemnation):

16. There is thus a profound link between Christ, the Church and evangelization. During the period of the Church that we are living in, it is she who has the task of evangelizing. This mandate is not accomplished without her, and still less against her.

It is certainly fitting to recall this fact at a moment like the present one when it happens that not without sorrow we can hear people - whom we wish to believe are well-intentioned but who are certainly misguided in their att…

Paul VI on the Gospel: "a wisdom that is not of this world"

evangelii nuntiandi 5, by Paul VI:

[T]he presentation of the Gospel message is not an optional contribution for the Church. It is the duty incumbent on her by the command of the Lord Jesus, so that people can believe and be saved. This message is indeed necessary. It is unique. It cannot be replaced. It does not permit either indifference, syncretism or accommodation. It is a question of people's salvation. It is the beauty of the Revelation that it represents. It brings with it a wisdom that is not of this world. It is able to stir up by itself faith - faith that rests on the power of God. It is truth. It merits having the apostle consecrate to it all his time and all his energies, and to sacrifice for it, if necessary, his own life.

“I equate evangelism with terrorism,” [Algerian] Religious Affairs Minister Ghoulamullah

ALGERIA: OFFICIALS ORDER CLOSURE OF 19 PROTESTANT CONGREGATIONS
Police in Muslim country detain Christians for carrying Bibles.

ISTANBUL, March 28 (Compass Direct News) – Police issued written orders for three Algerian churches to cease activity this week, bringing to 19 the number of congregations told to shut down since November, an Algerian Protestant leader said.

In addition to the three churches, registered under the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA), two independent congregations were verbally ordered to close their doors, EPA President Mustapha Krim said.

The church closures come amid a flurry of antagonistic media articles warning of campaigns by Protestants to “Christianize” Algeria.

“Muslims do not accept seeing their holy symbols attacked,” Religious Affairs Minister Bu’Abdallah Ghoulamullah said this week in reference to a “Christianization campaign” targeting the country.

Ghoulamullah called on Christian groups in Algeria to re-register according to Algeria’s associations’ law…

What is Abu Daoud reading? Ten Muslims Meet Christ

Image
You are in your car. You break out in a cold sweat. You realize that you have no idea what Abu Daoud is reading these days. Well, fear not. I am done with Day of the Jackal (hardly academic, I know) and almost finished with Andrew Walls' The Missionary Movement in Christian History which has been very influential for me.

So what am I reading now? This little gem found in a nearby library: Ten Muslims Meet Christ by William McElwee Miller. It is a very good read, and is all about the history of missions in Persia/Iran. It really is like reading a history of the Presbyterian and Anglican missions in Iran. I also like that it is written by a Presbyterian who seems to have a genuine appreciation for the historical churches in the region (Catholic, Armenian). He does not mind talking about sacraments like baptism and Communion. He tells of one Muslim believer who was in the opium den and as he was preparing to smoke his opium he realizes, "I have eaten the holy bread of my Lord wi…

"Liberty, the highest of natural endowments"

Pope Leo XIII:

Liberty, the highest of natural endowments, being the portion only of intellectual or rational natures, confers on man this dignity -- that he is "in the hand of his counsel" and has power over his actions. But the manner in which such dignity is exercised is of the greatest moment, inasmuch as on the use that is made of liberty the highest good and the greatest evil alike depend.

The Opium Brides of Afghanistan

Remember that Afghanistan has one of the highest birthrates in the world and thus one of the fastest growing populations:

The Opium Brides of Afghanistan

[...] Afghans disparagingly call them "loan brides"—daughters given in marriage by fathers who have no other way out of debt. The practice began with the dowry a bridegroom's family traditionally pays to the bride's father in tribal Pashtun society. These days the amount ranges from $3,000 or so in poorer places like Laghman and Nangarhar to $8,000 or more in Helmand, Afghanistan's No. 1 opium-growing province. For a desperate farmer, that bride price can be salvation—but at a cruel cost. Among the Pashtun, debt marriage puts a lasting stain on the honor of the bride and her family. It brings shame on the country, too. President Hamid Karzai recently told the nation: "I call on the people [not to] give their daughters for money; they shouldn't give them to old men, and they shouldn't give them in forc…

Ireland's Catholic Orders

Great series of photographs of Ireland's Catholic orders over at new Newsweek:

Ireland's Catholic Orders
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Quran: "Allah is the best if deceivers"

"and [they] deceived and Allah deceived and Allah is the best of deceivers"Sura 3:54

Fitna: The Movie, see it at Brussels Journal

Check it out HERE, until their web host starts getting threats too:

www.brusselsjournal.com/node/3135
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The Dutch getting sick of Islam

Look for more of this around Europe:

According to 56 percent of the Dutch, Islam is a threat to the Dutch identity. As well, 57 percent named admitting large groups of immigrants as "the biggest mistake in Dutch history".

From HERE. HT to BrusselsJournal.com
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"The earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle."

Narrated Abu Huraira:

While we were in the mosque, Allah's Apostle came out to us and said, "Let us proceed to the Jews." So we went along with him till we reached Bait-al-Midras (a place where the Torah used to be recited and all the Jews of the town used to gather). The Prophet stood up and addressed them, "O Assembly of Jews! Embrace Islam and you will be safe!" The Jews replied, "O Aba-l-Qasim! You have conveyed Allah's message to us." The Prophet said, "That is what I want (from you)."

He repeated his first statement for the second time, and they said, "You have conveyed Allah's message, O Aba-l-Qasim." Then he said it for the third time and added, "You should Know that the earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle, and I want to exile you from this land, so whoever among you owns some property, can sell it, otherwise you should know that the earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle."

(See Hadith No. 392, Vol. 4) (S…

Islam: What the West needs to know

Well, it's longer than Fitna (which you can allegedly find on Google video), but I found it to be truly excellent. Very well-researched, I rarely post videos on my blog, but this one is well worth it.

Especially good are the discussions on abrogation (naskh and mansuukh) and taqiyya (dissimulation, wherein the Muslim must lie).

What the West needs to know

Fitna dropped from Livelink due to threats

American Pundit says this:

I can’t hold animosity towards the staff of Liveleak. When others refused to even air it once, LL was there willing to stand up for free speech. Unfortunately, the forces looking to silence critics of Islam again take to threats of violence, rather than civil debate.

Meanwhile, what does the UN Human Rights Council concern itself with? Making sure governments actually prohibit criticism of religions, namely Islam.

Well, as they say in London: Anyone who offends the Prophet, behead him!

Or as they also say in London: Islam, our religion today, your religion tomorrow.

Fitna. It's here. (But not anymore.)

Geert Wilders is a politician in the Netherlands and he has recently released his short 15-minute video called Fitna. It is violent and harsh, it is a polemical film and should be taken as such.

See it here if you wish:

Fitna

UPDATE FROM ABU DAOUD: Well, it was there for a while. It must have just been removed because I just finished watching the whole thing. Found it to be quite good actually. What a sad day this is. I have no doubt that it will somehow or another get out on the internet and I will let you know when it becomes available again. Liveleak says they took down the video because of "very serious threats to their staff." Which in many ways simply confirms what Wilders is proposing: that Islam is a profoundly and irreversibly violent civilization (It's not just a religion, you should know that by now).

Pray for Abu Faadil

Abu Faadil is a Muslim believer in Jesus, though his wife and kids are not. I believe that he is at an important time in his life where he needs to make some important decisions. Pray that God would give him courage and wisdom and boldness to do what is right even if it is not popular. Also pray that his immediate family would come to share in his faith.

Anglican Centre in Qatar

Here is the website for the Anglican congregation in Qatar. They are fundraising so that they can build their church building. We recently posted some info on the Roman Catholic congregation built in Qatar.

The Anglican Centre in Qatar

Allam's conversion and new opportunities for Muslims

[...] In many ways, the Allam conversion, and the controversy that is likely to ensure, will present both challenges and opportunities for ongoing Muslim-non-Muslim relations. First, it provides yet a further test of the Muslim commitment to universal human rights and, to a degree, compatibility with “Western values.” Earlier, opportunities arose in the context of the Pope’s initial remarks on Islam, and the publication of the Danish cartoons. These opportunities were wasted, and the perceived divide between Islam and the West has only grown. For Western Muslims in particular however, the Allam conversion affords an opportunity to demonstrate a respect for the universal human freedom of religion, which is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This necessarily requires the express rejection of the traditionalist Islamic approach to the issue. Will the Muslim world embrace this opportunity? [...]

From HERE.

Zakaria Botros: Fight Fire with Fire

In my discussion with Sherry (below) I mentioned this priest, whom I have met personally, as a good example of fruitful and excellent witness to Muslims that is confrontational and antagonistic. Like I said, ninceness is not a virtue. Courage is.

Islam’s ‘Public Enemy #1’
Coptic priest Zakaria Botros fights fire with fire.

By Raymond Ibrahim

Though he is little known in the West, Coptic priest Zakaria Botros — named Islam’s “Public Enemy #1” by the Arabic newspaper, al-Insan al-Jadid — has been making waves in the Islamic world. Along with fellow missionaries — mostly Muslim converts — he appears frequently on the Arabic channel al-Hayat (i.e., “Life TV”). There, he addresses controversial topics of theological significance — free from the censorship imposed by Islamic authorities or self-imposed through fear of the zealous mobs who fulminated against the infamous cartoons of Mohammed. Botros’s excurses on little-known but embarrassing aspects of Islamic law and tradition have become a th…

Sherry and Abu Daoud: On mission to Muslims and Allam's baptism

Hi All,

Well, here is the last section on the debate between me and Sherry. I invite her to have the last word if she feels anything needs to be tied up. I think I have also addressed the concerns expressed by Shaw, though I have not answered his questions here explicitly.

Thank you to everyone for linking to our discussion here. If anyone has more questions please leave a comment or e-mail me.

***
SW: As you and I both know, some of the most effective witnesses *in the Muslim world* [...] don't have crosses on their meeting places, and they don't use bells, and women do cover their heads and men and women sit separately and they may use a Koran stand for their Bible, etc. They have adopted local customs that are not essential to the faith in order to more effectively be able to share the Gospel with others.

AD: Yes, but Italy is not the Muslim world. At least not yet.

SW: Abu Daoud, for instance, you use a common Arabic pseudonym and never reveal your Christian name or your locatio…

This made my day!

From DarwinCatholic:

(Incidently, if all blogosphere argument was as civil and thoughtful as the Sherry/Abu Daoud exchange, it would be a pretty wonderful thing.)

Let me also post this quote, which was, I thought, quite insightful:

Benedict is no political and cultural fire-breether, but he is a thoughtful and holy man who is in no sense afraid of difficult and unpopular truths. I wonder if the pope, who according to Allam immediately agreed to personally receive him into the Church when Allam made the request, means with this action to make a statement that he will bring to the table when he meets with scholars from the A Common Word initiative in November: Toleration means not merely ignoring and minimizing points of difference, but respecting the conscience of others even in the face of grave and important points of difference.

Sundry Items of Interest

Delicious pickings from around the globe:

Food prices are going up all around the world. Did I mention that the next big war will probably be about food and water? Not oil...

Comoros military mobilized against rebels. Why is this important? Because Comoros is generally on all the lists for least-evangelized countries in the world, especially when you look down the road ten or 20 years. Any one called to Comoros? Really pray about it.

Iranian preacher evangelizes Muslims in the UK.

Spengler: "convert European Muslims"

From the irascible Spengler at AsiaTimes:

As I wrote in 2005, "Now that everyone is talking about Europe's demographic death, it is time to point out that there exists a way out: convert European Muslims to Christianity." Today's Europeans stem from the melting-pot of the barbarian invasions that replaced the vanishing population of the Roman Empire. The genius of the Catholic Church was to absorb them. If Benedict XVI can convert this new wave of invaders from North Africa and the Middle East, history will place him on a par with his great namesake, the founder of the monastic order the bears his name.

2020 UK: worshippers at mosques to outnumber Catholic church-goers

The Telegraph

The increasing influence of Islam on British culture is disclosed in research today that shows the number of Muslims worshipping at mosques in England and Wales will outstrip the numbers of Roman Catholics going to church in little more than a decade.

Projections show Muslims are to outstrip Catholic Sunday worshippers by 2020.

Projections to be published next month estimate that, if trends continue, the number of Catholic worshippers at Sunday Mass will fall to 679,000 by 2020. [...]

Allam: We must "affirm the truth of Jesus even with Muslims"

Hello All,

Had a nice day really. I wish I could tell you more about what I did, but suffice to say I spent most of the day with a talented theologian and friend who can intelligently answer questions about, say Rahner's theology of the Trinity, off the top of his head. And had a great lunch.

I will write an answer to Sherry and Shaw's comments tomorrow, but for now I think our new brother has said it very well:

His Holiness has sent an explicit and revolutionary message to a Church that until now has been too prudent in the conversion of Muslims, abstaining from proselytizing in majority Muslim countries and keeping quiet about the reality of converts in Christian countries. Out of fear. The fear of not being able to protect converts in the face of their being condemned to death for apostasy and fear of reprisals against Christians living in Islamic countries. Well, today Benedict XVI, with his witness, tells us that we must overcome fear and not be afraid to affirm the truth of…

The Baptism of Magdi Allam: wisdom or folly?

Sherry from Intentional Disciples and I have been having an ongoing debate about this topic for all of two days. I think we have established that in many respects we are actually in agreement. So I think the main topic at this point is regarding the prudence of this specific act: was it the wisest and most prudent path for Benedict to baptize this particular Muslim on Easter at St. Petersburg?

I think there that Sherry would answer NO. But my answer is Yes. So let me address this specific topic instead of trading in hypotheticals, which is what we have been doing until now.

1) It was wise because this man has been thinking about converting for years. This is not a sudden decision or something that has not had forethought. He said it himself if you read the articles. This is important.

2) It is right because the man lives in Rome. Benedict is the bishop of Rome and thus the senior or chief pastor of that city--even Protestants and evangelicals must agree with this. It is therefore good…

Response from Sr. Sherry, my response to her

Read it all here.

Sister Sherry on the Baptism of Allam

Sister Sherry over at Intentional Disciples is not too excited (I think) about the baptism of Allam by the good Roman bishop. She says:

Historically, this sort of gesture has actually hamstrung the cause of the gospel in the Muslim world by exacerbating the enmity against those considering baptism, isolating converts from their natural social network, and making the price of conversion the loss of all family (including children) and friendship ties. The result: only the already marginalized became Christians and many didn't go the distance because the social isolation was too terrible to bear. The breakthrough happened when Christians stopped demanding individuals convert in a way that doomed them to isolation and started to work with whole families, tribes, and people groups.

With all due respect to her (and I really do respect her ministry, may God prosper it!), I think she is perhaps missing a couple of things which I want to point out. There is in the mission field of the Middl…

"Benedict has got Islam's number"

From Jihadwatch.org:

"The Union of Islamic Communities in Italy — which Allam has frequently criticized as having links to Hamas — said the baptism was his own decision.

'He is an adult, free to make his personal choice,' the Apcom news agency quoted the group's spokesman, Issedin El Zir, as saying. [...]" -- from this article

My, my.

We are expected to believe that Muslims believe that he, Magdi Allam, or anyone else, for that matter, who is born into Islam and "is an adult" is therefore "free to make his personal choice."

This merely means that, for now, given the image problems Islam has been having, official Islamic groups in Italy are going to lie about what is permitted, for fear of alarming and angering the Infidels further. Magdi Allam is frequently on Italian television (the RAI), writes frequently in the most important paper, the Corriere della Sera, and furthermore, was baptised by the Pope himself, which puts the Vatican squarel…

Prominent Muslim becomes Catholic on Easter

This is all over the blogosphere. Praise be to God. May many more follow. It is so important that the bishops of the church take the lead in this, and what better way by baptizing the converts? In many ways it is a sign of solidarity because Muslims take the sacramental act very seriously, and the one who baptizes becomes guilty of a crime against Allah, though not as serious as the one committed by the one who professes faith in Christ in the sacrament.

Prominent Muslim becomes Catholic on Easter

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Italy's most prominent Muslim commentator converted to Roman Catholicism on Saturday during the Vatican's Easter vigil service presided over by the pope.

An Egyptian-born, non-practicing Muslim, Magdi Allam has infuriated some fellow Muslims with his criticism of extremism and support for Israel.

The deputy editor of the Corriere della Sera newspaper, Allam often writes on Muslim and Arab affairs.

He told the Il Giornale newspaper in a December interview that his cri…

Seven Stanzas at Easter

I always post this at Easter. I really love this poem:

Seven Stanzas at Easter
by John Updike

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

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

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

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

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

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,

Holy Saturday: An in-between moment

In this empty hallway, there’s nothing expected of us at this moment. The work is out of our hands, and all we can do is wait, breathe, look around. People sometimes feel like this when they’ve been up all night with someone who’s seriously ill or dying, or when they’ve been through a non-stop series of enormously demanding tasks. A sort of peace, but more a sort of ‘limbo’, an in-between moment. For now, nothing more to do; tired, empty, slightly numbed, we rest for a bit, knowing that what matters is now happening somewhere else.

–Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams

(HT to TitusOneNine)

Saudis to retrain 40,000 clerics

Saudis to retrain 40,000 clerics

[...] Saudi clerics have long been accused of encouraging Saudi youth to join global jihad and of inciting hatred of non-Muslims.

Nearly 1,000 imams have already been sacked over the past few years.

The Saudi royal family has come under increasing pressure - mainly from Washington - to change religious textbooks and to rein in militant clerics.

But critics are sceptical about whether such initiatives would work as long as the powerful, and ultraconservative, religious establishment in Saudi Arabia continues to exert enormous influence over society.

Only last week, a prominent cleric called for the beheading of two liberal writers who had questioned the orthodox view that Muslims can not change their religion.

Good Friday, the Gospel of John, Fake Peace, and Real Peace

From Peter Leithart, who is brilliant:

...Rome brings final peace and justice to the world.

There was something to that, but in the trial of Jesus we discover the blunt injustice and bald pragmatism on which Roman peace was founded. Three times Pilate declares Jesus innocent: I find no fault in Him, I find no fault in Him, I find no fault in Him. But the Jews insist that since Jesus has made Himself a king, He threatens the Roman empire, and it’s clear from the agitation of the Jews that Jesus threatens the peace of Israel. If I don’t get rid of Jesus, Pilate reasons, I’m going to have no end of trouble from these Jews. I could lose support in Rome, and I could lose my job. It’s better for one innocent man to die than for me to be faced with enraged Jewish agitators. It’s better that one man die, than for me to lose the perks of being a provincial governor.

This is Roman peace. It is peace founded on the murder of the innocent. It’s a peace designed to protect the interests of tho…

The Harrowing of Hell

Image
Holy Saturday: Christ descends to the grave and opens the gates for the righteous deceased.

Video from Sana'a in Yemen

Nate has posted some nice footage of Sana'a the capital city of Yemen at his blog. Check it out:

Pictures of Redemption

Liberal Christianity and Decline

One could find similar figures for the other large, liberal denominations (ELCA, PCUSA, UMC, etc.):

The raw, ugly truth is that there are less than 800,000 practicing Episcopalians on any given Sunday. That number is declining at the rate of 1,000 a week. According to a Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey, the Episcopal Church is the fastest dying mainline protestant denomination in America. It dropped 1.5% in attendance last year. That figure is projected to only increase and escalate in 2008.

The Episcopal Church has declined in absolute numbers. According to statistics presented by Kirk Hadaway, the Episcopal Church's director of research to the Executive Council, the church is losing 1,000 parishioners per week. Only one in three Episcopalians attends a parish church on a weekly basis. Membership in all 110 dioceses of the Episcopal Church totaled 2,320,506 in 2006, down 2.2%, or 51,502, from 2,372,008 in 2005. That's the equivalent of 1,000 Episcopalians walking …

Arabic Christian Writers

A huge list!

Now I just have to figure out where to get these writings...

Muhammad not 'the founder of Islam'

Muhammad is Allah’s Last Messenger, not the ‘founder’ of Islam
BY SUMAYYAH MEEHAN (Living Islam)

21 March 2008

THE Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) name has yet again been in the media as of late due to the republication of the offense Danish cartoon caricatures that continue to be used to taunt Muslims and tarnish the good name of the final messenger (pbuh).

As I watched the recent protests unfold on live television from Muslims around the world in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other nations, I became increasingly irritated with the broadcaster’s commentary. She kept referring to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the ‘founder’ of Islam. And even her interviewees responded in a similar fashion by also referring to him as the ‘founder’ of Islam.

To imply that Muhammad (pbuh) founded Islam or created it is a gross and reprehensible lie that quite often is used by the enemies of Islam to water-down the impact that Muhammad’s (pbuh) prophethood had on the entire world. This world has never seen a greater ma…

Erik Twist, Part X: No Loopholes

Part 10 of his Why Catholic? series:

[...] Fr. Scott’s way of approaching issues was, well, Magisterial. He spoke with clarity and confidence and in such a way that as I listened to him I was remembering why Catholicism had initially intrigued me; it had the audacity to speak as though it was authoritatively true. But most of all I was mesmerized by the philosophical consistency which under girded Fr. Scott’s responses. There were no loopholes. There was no jumping from one assumption to the next. There were reasonable answers for each reasonable question. In his responses I was constantly amazed by how they both upheld the dignity of mankind while not overshadowing the sovereignty of God. In Protestantism this never seemed quite possible. Either the former was emphasized to the point of secular humanism, or the latter was emphasized to the point of rigid Dutch Calvinism. [...]

Ziya Meral: Bearing the Silence

Excellent article here from a Muslim-background believer (MBB) in Turkey. Please do read it all, but here is one section:

Bearing the Silence

I must admit, I am no heavenly man! Unlike most other Muslim-background believers, there is nothing supernatural to tell about how I came in touch with Christians or decided to be one.

On the contrary, I went to an old Anglican church with some friends because of an article about it in a local Turkish newspaper, which accused it of luring young people to become Christians by offering them wine, 100 U.S. dollars every Sunday, and the possibility of marrying a young British woman.

I was 17 years old when I had to face my family and relatives about my decision to be a follower of Jesus. I remember vividly how fearful I was, and how isolated and alone I felt as I lay in the fetal position in a sleeping bag on a friend's floor.

I am still broke, sober, and single after all these years, and I still struggle with shame, loneliness, and fear.

[...] More C…

A Church in Saudi Arabia?

Very unlikely, IMHO. But still worth reading. Maybe in one of the special economic zones where regular Saudis are not allowed in without special permission...

A Church in Saudi Arabia?

Presiding over the cradle of Islam and home to its holiest sites, the Saudi monarchy has long banned the open worship of other faiths, even as the number of Catholics resident in Saudi Arabia has risen to 800,000 thanks to an influx of immigrant workers from places like the Philippines and India. Mosques are the only houses of prayer in a country where the strict Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam dominates. But Archbishop Paul-Mounged El-Hachem, the papal envoy to the smaller countries on the Arabian peninsula, such as Kuwait and Qatar, has confirmed that talks are under way to establish formal diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Saudi Arabia, and to eventually allow for Catholic churches to be built there. Pope Benedict XVI is believed to have personally appealed to King Abdullah on the topic durin…

Most Palestinians favor violence over talks, poll shows

Most Palestinians favor violence over talks, poll shows

RAMALLAH, West Bank: A new poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Palestinians support the attack this month on a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem that killed eight young men, most of them teenagers, an indication of the alarming level of Israeli-Palestinian tension in recent weeks.

The survey also shows unprecedented support for the firing of rockets on Israeli towns from the Gaza Strip and for the end of the peace negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

The pollster who conducted the survey, Khalil Shikaki, said he was shocked because it showed greater support for violence than any of the surveys he had conducted over the past 15 years in the Palestinian areas. Never before, he said, had a majority favored an end to negotiations or the firing of rockets at Israel.

[...]

His explanation for the shift, one widely reflected in the Palestinian media, is that recent actions by Israel, especially a series of attacks on Gaza…

VOM: Christians killed in Ethiopia

Christians Killed - VOM Sources/International Christian Concern
On March 3, Muslim militants killed at least two Christians and wounded dozens in Nensabo town southeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. According to The Voice of the Martyrs contacts and reports from International Christian Concern, militants attacked Christians, including women and children, while they were attending a worship service. According to reports, "Eight of the wounded have been taken to the town of Awassa for hospitalization, while others with serious injuries were taken to Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa. Among the wounded were a police officer and a Christian whose hand was cut off by the attackers." Reports indicated that the attack was part of a plan by Muslim militants, influenced by the spread of Wahhabism, in the area to wipe out Christians from the Muslim-dominated region. Pray for those mourning deceased believers. Ask God to comfort them. Pray God will protect and guide believers in Ethiopia f…

Al Kimel on Purgatory

Since Erik just wrote about Purgatory, I thought I'd post a section of Al Kimel's apology for the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory, which Eastern orthodox tend to not accept either. But I think as far as apologetics go his is the best one could present:

[...] But the punishment [of Purgatory] is not primarily or exclusively retributive: its purpose is the sanctification and perfection of the sinner. The punitive dimension of purgatorial suffering must be interpreted through its medicinal purpose. The person is truly being “punished” for his own good—to heal the disorder of his heart and liberate him completely from the power of sin.

The language of “punishment” in this context should therefore be recognized as a form of figurative speech. The torment individuals suffer in Purgatory varies, Bonaventure explains, “according as they took with them from their earthly life more or less of what must be burned away. … The more deeply a man has loved the things of the world in the inner…

Council of Chalcedon (451)

I was just reading about the Council of Chalcedon two days ago and I learned that there were between 500 and 600 bishops there. And that only two of them were from the West, both of whom were papal legates, and two more from Africa. That means that the Definition of Chalcedon (below) which is authoritative for all churches except the Oriental Orthodox was brought forth from a very Eastern milieu.

Moreover, all the main sees were involved in the controversies on Nestorianism and Monophysitism which were addressed at Chalcedon (and Ephesus 20 years earlier). St Cyril of Alexandria was the main opponent of Nestorius, who was a monk from Antioch but who had been made bishop of Constantinople. The Council promulgated the Tome of Leo (bishop of Rome) as orthodox teaching against the two heresies mentioned above.

Also important: Ephesus (431) promulgated the title Theotokos (God-bearer) for Mary against Nestorius.

The canons of Chalcedon were all accepted by Rome except for the elevation of C…

"Violence is incompatible with the nature of God..."

Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly.

Pope Benedict XVI

Erik Twist, Purgatory, and "Decision"

From Part IX:

...The Protestant notion of salvation is an all-in-one, instantaneous occurrence where the deal is sealed upon "conversion." Today the supposition is that such an event takes place once an individual "prays the sinner's prayer." I've been to many an evangelical rally, a few of which have been Promise Keepers events. At the last one I went to in San Antonio (3 years before Catholicism became a serious possibility) I remember being very turned off by the way salvation was articulated during the "altar call". The usual evangelical process was undertaken; lights were dimmed, the band played some ethereal tune in the background, and the "leader" spoke passionately about the benefits of a life with Christ. As droves of people came forward they were encouraged to fill out "Decision Cards" that were being passed out around the arena.

My good friend Duane Miller was with me and we reflected on the implications of referring t…

US Embassy attacked in Yemen

HERE:

US Embassy says three mortars detonated close to the compound and closes.

Moses and the Green Man

Nice summary here of one of the longer stories from the Qur'an, in this case it is from Spencer's commentary on the The Cave, one of the chapters of the Qur'an:

[...] Verses 60-82 of Sura 18 contain one of the strangest, most arresting stories in the entire Qur’an: that of the journey of Moses and Khidr, one of the great road-trip stories of all time. Moses, traveling with his servant, forgets the fish they had carried along for their meal (vv. 60-64). Returning to retrieve it, they encounter “one of Our servants, on whom We had bestowed Mercy from Ourselves and whom We had taught knowledge from Our own Presence,” (v. 65). In Islamic tradition this man is identified as Al-Khadir or Al-Khidr, or, more commonly, Khidr, “the Green Man.” Some identify him as one of the prophets, others as a wali, a Muslim saint. [...]

Anyway, at the beginning of their encounter, Moses asks Khidr: “May I follow thee,” so that “thou teach me something of the (Higher) Truth which thou hast b…

"Frighten the enemies of GOD"

From the Qur'an:

8:60 You shall prepare for them all the power you can muster, and all the equipment you can mobilize, that you may frighten the enemies of GOD, your enemies, as well as others who are not known to you; GOD knows them. Whatever you spend in the cause of GOD will be repaid to you generously, without the least injustice.

8:61 If they resort to peace, so shall you, and put your trust in GOD. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient.

Father of Jesus? God of Muhammad?

Here is the short blog post:

Kevin DeYoung passed along today an excerpt from chapter 2 of Timothy Tennent's book, Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think About and Discuss Theology (p. 48):

This study has sought to clarify many of the issues that lie behind the question, "Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?"

First, I pointed out the importance of differentiating between those predicates about God that we share with Muslims and those predicates about God that are distinctively Christian. We observed not only how crucial the distinctively Christian predicates are to Christian identity, but even how a truly Christocentric perspective transforms the shared predicates.

Second, I attempted to demonstrate that the long and sustained use of the word "Allah" by Muslims has altered its connotation such that, for Muslims, it has become a name for the Islamic God, not just the Arabic equivalent of the …

Black Iris: How Denmark Became a Jordanian Distraction

Excellent comments here from a guy in Jordan, who is trying to help that country move forward. He makes these comments after describing various efforts to start a boycott of Danish goods.

How Denmark Became a Jordanian Distraction

[...]I find boycotts ironic sometimes, especially in Jordan. But forget about the shooting-yourself-in-the-foot quality that comes with hurting local businesses here in Jordan more than the Danish media in Denmark. Forget about the fact that people are boycotting Danish butter but are still taking their insulin shots (80% of which are imported from Denmark). Forget about the irony of the pirated DVD shop, Hammudeh, posting “Don’t buy Danish products” on its door. Instead, think about this:

Why is no one boycotting local goods by local producers whose prices have skyrocketed, some of which have gone unchecked by the consumer protection society (in my opinion)? Isn’t that the natural reaction? Why were no boycotts issued for Israeli products or more specifically …

Questions from a reader

One reader from Australia asks: "(1) Why is the West not getting it (security forces, government) and (2) What hope is there for the West?!"

My answer:

1) Because we are addicted to petroleum and the truth is not convenient. And because we love the idea of separation of religion and civil authority, so we don't get that this system doesn't work when addressing Islam. Islam is political in its very marrow.

2) Hope for the West? I don't know about Australia, but this question is directly related to questions of immigration, reproduction, and religion. Are people having children? In Europe the answer is no, not even enough to keep a stable population. Are lots of the immigrants Muslims? In Europe the answer is yes: think Turkey, Pakistan, N. Africa. Of the indigenous population are people practicing Christians (of any type at all including Catholic)? In Europe the answer is no. So I think Europe has little hope right now.

The last question is important because Islam is…

OXFORD: Muslim call to prayer sounds strained note

OXFORD, England (AFP) - Famous for its university and quintessentially English "dreaming spires," the city of Oxford has been plunged into controversy over the sound of Muslim call to prayer from a local mosque.

Those church spires have been joined by a minaret, with a loudspeaker on top which has triggered protests from locals concerned about the influx of a foreign culture.

"I don't have any problem with Islam but don't force it on people," said Oxford University historian Allan Chapman, whose typically English house has a view of both the minaret and the nearby Church of Saint Mary and Saint John.

The Central Mosque was built in the east of the city, the "other Oxford", which is home to a poorer population and more immigrants than the historic centre of ancient, sandstone colleges, libraries and students on bicycles.

Cutting through the area is the main, multi-ethnic thoroughfare of Cowley Road, where Pakistani men in traditional tunics and other i…

The Hermeneutics Quiz

OK, so I'm a hermeneutics junky. I think it's the main challenge today for evangelical/Protestant Christianity (and I am one of course). So I took this hermeneutics quiz with joy, and discovered that I am...ready?

MODERATE (60 points)

Take it and let me know what you score.

First church inaugurated in Qatar

Great news here from AFP, and other sources as well. This is a controversial occassion because there is a hadith wherein Muhammad said, "Let there not be more than one religion in the Arabian Peninsula." This is why KSA has no churches of course, KSA is the second worse violator of religious freedom in the world (after N Korea) and of course after oil its main export is Wahabi-Salafi Islam which is reformed, violent, and militant.

But enough on KSA. As you read this article let me point out how we should be praying for this new church as well as the other ones that are in the work.

One concern is safety obviously, but in this region that is a given.

Let us also pray that the ministers in these churches would have a great desire and ability to communicate the good news with their flocks but also with the Muslim population there.

Finally, note that the absence of any crosses or bells is classic shari'a. If it has been established that the location where the church is built us…