Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mark Gabriel: Islam, a river of blood

Islam is full of discrimination-against women, against non-Muslims, against Christians and most especially against Jews. Hatred is built into the religion. The history of Islam, which was my special area of study, could only be characterized as a river of blood.

Mark Gabriel, former Muslim, former professor of Islamics at al Azhar University

Monday, April 28, 2008

Utopianism of the Muslim Brotherhood (Al Ikhwaan)

The Birth of the Muslim Brotherhood changed everything:

Founded in 1928 by a then-obscure figure called Hassan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood proclaimed the revival of an imaginary original purity in religion, asserting that a diluted and distorted Muslim devotion had undermined Islamic resistance to European imperialism. Yet the Muslim Brotherhood was modernistic in its reaction against modernity, adopting the characteristics of competing leftist and rightist militias in Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Germany. It flourished as an aggressive, paramilitary formation, and established a network in the Arab East, India, Turkey, and Indonesia. While some of these branches were no more than fantasies typical of radical conspiracies, the Muslim Brotherhood did become an open ally of Hitler in seeking enhanced German influence in the Islamic world. Decades later, its Palestinian wing gave birth to Hamas, one of its most successful offshoots, and it has grown very powerful in many Muslim countries.

From HERE.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Dealbreaker List

If you have hung around with 20-something (or 30-something) single American evangelicals, this will be hilarious. If not, then please just ignore this video.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Hugh Fitzgerald on the governments of the West and Islam

Hugh Fitzgerald says:

...Western governments simply will not stop to examine, will not dare even to discuss, the nature, the meaning, the menace of Islam and Jihad. Those whose duty it is to protect us will continue to pretend that what goes on in mosques is as "religious" in nature as what goes on in churches or synagogues. But it isn't. Visits to mosques, or tapes of what goes on, or the testimony of those who have jettisoned Islam but can still recall what they heard (or if their faces are not recognized, enter mosques still) confirm that what goes on is dangerous to Infidels, to their legal and political institutions, to their physical security....

Friday, April 25, 2008

Faith, Works, and Logomachy

And you thought I only blogged about Anglicans, Catholics and Orthodox. Ya haram!

Southern Baptist extraordinaire David Rogers asks questions about how to square Paul and James:

As I have thought about faith and works, and their relationship to salvation, I have struggled with the apparent conflict between the teaching of Paul and James. If we are honest, and have thought much about it at all, I think we all would admit to struggling with this very same thing.

He then proposes a hypothetical situation which I will let you read. But here is what I wrote:

A good place to start is by realizing that Catholics and Protestants use the word justification quite differently. In Protestantism we view in a very forensic sense, that is, like in a court room. It is the beginning of our salvation when our present, past, and future sins (that last is debated among evangelicals) are forgiven and we move into a curious status that Luther called simul justus et pecatur–at once just and a sinner. After that we move into what we have traditionally called the stage of sanctification, where we cooperate with God’s grace and love and haltingly and in a very broken way, hopefully mature into wise and obedient Christians.

In Catholicism (and Eastern Orthodoxy), the word justification is used in a transformational sense: to actually do the long hard work of teaching one to be just. In other words justification lasts from the moment of conversion until the moment of glorification (the resurrection of the righteous).

One can argue about which side better grasps the NT usage of the word justification. I find that the word us actually used in both ways in different passages. At times it is more forensic (court room declaration) and at other times it is more transformational and gradual.

If you believe that sanctification can occur without good works (which are a gift of God in themselves), then you probably do have a genuine and profound difference of doctrine with the Catholics. Otherwise I doubt your disagreement is fundamental.

If you care to join in the conversation go for it. I am happy to bring intelligent Catholics and Orthodox and Baptists together. I am, after all, evangelical--and that is a label I will accept until the day I die. But I'm also very catholic.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

First ever oil paintings found, defaced by Muslims

Interesting stuff here:

Murals found on cave walls in Afghanistan prove that painting with oil had been going on in Asia for centuries before artists used the technique in Europe, scientists said this week.

Until now, art historians believed that oil painting started in Europe in the 15th century.

Just check out this picture from the CNN website.

But guess what? This important work done by Buddhist monks in the 7th C. has been defaced, quite literally. The faces of the people have been destroyed.

Why? Allahu Akbar.

Bamiyan, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) northwest of Kabul, was once a thriving center of commerce and Buddhism. The paintings, scientists say, were probably the work of artists who traveled along the Silk Road, the ancient trade route between China, across Central Asia's desert to the West.

The Taliban used dozens of explosives to demolish the Buddha statues in Bamiyan.

Imagine what Afghanistan could be today if it were not for Islam. Imagine what Afghanistan can be some day by the power of God's grace.

Here is the complete article.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Evangelii Nuntiandi 44-46: Catechesis, media, and personal witness (sorts)

Paul talks about catechesis (§44) then as another form of evangelism. Is this not more of the same? I suspect that Vatican II blew a whole in rigorous catechesis and I have heard of people being confirmed after attending one or two classes. Which is better than nothing. But not much better.

He then discusses (§45) using the media--mass communication--to reach people. This goes on here in the Middle East, but not by Catholics. Only by evangelicals, and they do a great job at it too. (Obviously the intrepid and indomitable Abouna Zacarias is a fine exception among the Oriental Orthodox; though I would in all honest call him evangelical Orthodox.) So there is an opening there, waiting for someone to step through.

I have long said that some Muslims find the free-church, do-what-you-wanna-do model of worship unattractive even if they are attracted to Christian doctrine and the person of Christ--this point is incontrovertible. They might well be attracted to Catholicism. But no one is exposing them to Catholic liturgy, worship, theology, tradition, or thought. I am serious when I say that I could foresee hundreds (or thousands) of converts if there were just one televised, Arabic-language mass per day on satellite TV. There would be some discussion before and after about what different symbols mean and the various parts of the mass and how they fit together (ie, offertory, procession, the readings, the elevation, etc.) as well a decent and stirring sermon.

I have noted before that Paul VI goes to great lengths, again and again, to preserve a very balanced picture of society that resists either collectivism or individualism. And here, in §46, we find this again: he posits that there is, in the end, no substitute for personal contact. He ties this in to Confession (aka, the sacrament of Penance), but in doing this does he perhaps not betray a slight hierarchical bent? (Hierarchy means, quite literally, rule of a high priest.)

In any case, he is trying to balance the collectivist nature of media-based proclamation with individual relational evangelism. But this would have been the perfect place to affirm what is central to evangelicalism, and what makes it (at times) so successful: that the obligation and ability and call to evangelize belongs to each and every Christian at all times and in all places. He gets half way there by talking about how we can share our testimony: "In the long run, is there any other way of handing on the Gospel than by transmitting to another person one's personal experience of faith?"

But he doesn't close the deal :-( And, as was mentioned, falls back to Penance, which is not even open to the unbaptized.

Monday, April 21, 2008

How Benedict XVI Will Make History

Great stuff from Newsweek:

[...] By quoting a Byzantine emperor's sharp critique of Islam, Benedict XVI drew worldwide criticism. Others, however, including significant personalities in the complex worlds of Islam, took the pope's point about the dangers of faith detached from reason quite seriously. And over the ensuing 19 months, there have been potentially historic tectonic shifts going on, both within Islam and in the world of interreligious dialogue.

Benedict has received two open letters from Muslim leaders; the October 2007 letter, "An Open Word Between Us and You," proposed a new dialogue between Islam and the Vatican. That dialogue will now be conducted through a Catholic-Muslim Forum that will meet twice yearly, in Rome and in Amman, Jordan. The forum will address two issues that Benedict XVI has insisted be the focus of conversation: religious freedom, understood as a human right that everyone can grasp by reason, and the separation of religious and political authority in the modern state.

Perhaps even more important, given his influence in Sunni Islam, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia visited Benedict XVI in November 2007. Subsequently, the king announced his own interfaith initiative, aimed at drawing representatives of the three monotheistic faiths into a new conversation, and negotiations between the Holy See and Saudi Arabia opened on building the first Catholic church in the kingdom. (A new Catholic church, also the first of its kind, recently opened in Doha, Qatar.) Abdullah's voice was noticeably absent from the chorus of critics who charged Benedict XVI with "aggression" for baptizing Magdi Allam, a prominent Italian journalist and convert from Islam, in St. Peter's Basilica on March 22. That all of this has happened after Regensburg is, at the very least, suggestive.

In addition to reshaping the dialogue between Catholicism and Islam, Benedict XVI has made significant changes in the Vatican's intellectual approach to these volatile issues. Catholic veterans of the interreligious dialogue who did not press issues like religious freedom and reciprocity between the faiths have been replaced by scholars who believe that facing the hard questions helps support those Muslim reformers who are trying to find an authentic Islamic path to civility, tolerance and pluralism. Thus Benedict XVI has quietly put his pontificate behind the forces of Islamic reform—and may have found a crucial ally with a Saudi king who is wrestling with Wahhabi extremism in his own domain.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Project Sermon on the Mount

So a few days ago, I, with no intention to do this, set out in the streets of my city here with a copy of the Sermon on the Mount in both Arabic and English. I wasn't passing literature out or anything like that. I was mostly talking with people I already had met before, which is usually more effective. I would just drop by someone's hops and ask them to listen to me read something in Arabic and tell me if I was reading it well. I would read it, or they would read it. And we'd just see what happened.

One Muslim guy read the beautitudes and said, yes, this is really good. I asked the guy at the sandwich shop about "love your enemies"--is that even possible for people like us? The guy I was going to give the Sermon to was busy so I didn't even get to talk to him, which is ok. I ended up giving it away today to another guy I hadn't spoken with in a while. We talked for a good while. He is normally a very mellow person but he was upset about some local problems here. He invited me in to his business place and I sat down and ate flat bread and a mixture of fried, ground lamb and white onion (yummy). I listened to him for a long time. Friends of his came and went. I finally had the opportunity to give him the Sermon and he promised to read it.

I don't do this all the time. But every now and then...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Madha taqra', ya abu daoud? Churches and Ijtihad

First of all, great link here, where you can listen to a reading of 1st Clement:

Open Source Audio

The sentence above is Arabic for "What are you reading Abu Daoud?" So since the blogosphere is all abuzz with sundry articles about the Pope's American sojourn, I just want to do this thing, where I inexplicably and self-centeredly tell you what I'm reading:

1) Narrow Gate Churches, by Atallah Mansour. Just started it, but so far I really like his writing style. Few books exist about Arab Christianity, few of those are written by Arab Christians. This is one such book. Regarding the name:

To protect their ancient churches from desecrating marauders on horseback, worshipers in the Holy Lands centuries ago sealed off most of their doors to keep the invaders outside their sacred halls, so the term, "narrow gate churches" began to be used to describe Christian churches in the land of our savior’s birth. This history of how Christians have survived for two millennia under stressful conditions is a tribute to the faith of the remnant community which has rather miraculously survived under hostile regimes and straitened conditions.

2) A History of Islamic Legal Theories: An introduction to Sunni usul al fiqh, by Wael Hallaq. Interestingly, both of these authors are Nazarenes (from Nazareth, not the denomination of that name). This book is pretty dense to be honest, and I would not recommend it to anyone who has not already studied fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence, the science of shari'a and its origins, sources, and methods).

For beginners in this important topic I would rather recommend the shorter and more basic book by Bernard Weiss, The Spirit of Islamic Law.

One interesting aspect of the conversation going on today in this area has to do with the "gates of ijtihad". Ijtihad--and this is not a simple topic--is a sort of authoritative interpretation of the Quran which provides a hermeneutical foundation wherefrom one can embark upon the issuance of new verdicts and legal opinions. The question is this: can original ijtihad (that is, novel ijtihad) be produced today? I would say no, that since the 10th C. or so it has been forbidden by Islamic orthodoxy.

But I think Hallaq wants to suggest that there is at least a theoretical opening for novel ijtihad. I am interested in hearing his arguments, though I suspect that it will remain just that, theoretical. Just as it is theoretically possible to have a new ecumenical council that is both Orthodox and Catholic which will issue a new Creed. In theory it could happen. In practice? Almost impossible.

(If you haven't already read my latest piece on the shari'a it is HERE.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Anyone in the Minneapolis area?

To my dear eight readers:

Are any of you in the Minneapolis area? If so please e-mail me: winterlightning [at] safe-mail [D0T] net

Abu Daoud

EN 43: Apostolic Ardor, homilies and Amaretto Sours

Paul VI now moves on from the first 'how' of evangelism which is the authentic Christian life, to preaching. He makes a few points that I will not discuss in detail: preaching is necessary, people are tired of empty talk so we need to be creative in how we preach, and that, you know, wouldn't it be nice if we had good sermons at mass? (I cannot tell you how many times I've heard people complain about that last point, and quite rightly I have to say.)

So the next time your pastor asks you about his sermons, say, I would like to see more sermons that are "simple, clear, direct, well-adapted, profoundly dependent on Gospel teaching and faithful to the magisterium, animated by a balanced apostolic ardor coming from its own characteristic nature, full of hope, fostering belief, and productive of peace and unity." §43

Apostolic ardor. I like that. He then goes on to mention what seems to be a great insight for Catholic outreach, that the homily can be used on most any occasion:

Let us add that, thanks to the same liturgical renewal, the Eucharistic celebration is not the only appropriate moment for the homily. The homily has a place and must not be neglected in the celebration of all the sacraments, at para-liturgies, and in assemblies of the faithful. It will always be a privileged occasion for communicating the Word of the Lord.

(So some would say that Vatican II hardly led to 'liturgical renewal' but I am not even going to talk about that.)

So: imagine inviting friends over for dinner, and having a priest or deacon give a short homily before dinner, or heck, afterwards while folks are sipping on delicious amaretto sours (That's for you Erik). 15 minutes is not much. And if they are non-Christians then you don't have to start explaining what the Eucharist is, and so on (though that is certainly a good conversation to have...eventually).

This would be particularly suitable in the Middle East (perhaps without the Amaretto Sours). Especially if they have had some time to meet and speak with the cleric over a meal, they will not be adverse to him offering a couple of reflections on the life of saint whatever or the beatitudes or what have you. In fact it would be very ordinary for something like this to happen, since respect for religious figures (generally including Christian clerics) is still very much part of the culture, especially in more traditional areas (note that the clergy should be wearing clerical clothing).

This all completes the thought of people being tired of words. To share a meal is a form of communication which is very suitable for people tired of words. One might almost say that it is a sort of proto-Eucharist and the addition of a homily filled with Apostolic ardor can only make that truth more clear, helping the Church to "proclaim the Gospel to the people of today" §1.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Progress in Egypt, plans for Rome

One of the hardest things these days it to gauge progress. Who is making more progress? One thing is clear, the secularists are not winning any important battles. The battles they fight against Christians ultimately will turn against them because they will not resist Islamization. Islamization is good, Christianity is bad. Just ask the ACLU.

But here is some positive news from Egypt, mentioning the well-known Abouna Zakarias as well as some evangelical and Anglican leaders. The whole article is worth a read, but here is one significant section:

Surveying the big picture, Sameh believes a religious earthquake is shaking the Middle East, leading to many new conversions from Islam. "For years, there were only hundreds converting from Islam to Christianity. Very confidential, very low key," he said. "Now [converts] are writing their stories. They are in chatrooms. The voice of converts for the first time is being heard. The numbers are beyond estimation. It's an iceberg. If you hear a thousand, then there are 100,000 beneath the surface."

Sameh traces the roots of this evangelistic surge to a church-based awakening in the 1970s. Menes Abdul Noor (then pastor at Kasr El Dobara) and Coptic Orthodox priest Zakarias Botross were among the few Christian leaders willing to baptize new believers with a Muslim background. Coptic Orthodoxy represents up to 6 million people in Egypt, while Protestants number fewer than 250,000.

Fair enough. But the main point of the article is that the Egyptian government won't allow MBB's (Muslim-background believers) to change their ID cards from Muslim to Christian. But still, the fact that their voice is being heard it important.

But then we have some strident and confident promises, courtesy of Hamas (with whom Jimmy Carter will meeting soon), from one of their MP's, Yunis al-Astal:

Yunis Al-Astal: Allah has chosen you for Himself and for His religion, so that you will serve as the engine pulling this nation to the phase of succession, security, and consolidation of power, and even to conquests thorough da'wa and military conquests of the capitals of the entire world. Very soon, Allah willing, Rome will be conquered, just like Constantinople was, as was prophesized by our Prophet Muhammad. Today, Rome is the capital of the Catholics, or the Crusader capital, which has declared its hostility to Islam, and has planted the brothers of apes and pigs in Palestine in order to prevent the reawakening of Islam – this capital of theirs will be an advanced post for the Islamic conquests, which will spread through Europe in its entirety, and then will turn to the two Americas, and even Eastern Europe.

I believe that our children or our grandchildren will inherit our Jihad and our sacrifices, and Allah willing, the commanders of the conquest will come from among them. Today, we instill these good tidings in their souls, and by means of the mosques and the Koran books, and the history of our Prophets, his companions, and the great leaders, we prepare them for the mission of saving humanity from the hellfire on the brink of which they stand.

And if that happens then Rome will go the way of Constantinople. Upon being Islamized its status as a center of art, culture, and education will evaporate. For what is Constantinople now but a the dirty, industrialized hub of Istanbul, with tourism due to its great history, but little else. Rome will go the way of Alexandria, formerly a home to philosophers, artists, and theologians, but now home to...well, not much.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Muhammad and the caravan raids, old and new

Muhammad funded the early expansion of Islam by raiding caravans traveling between Mecca and Damascus. The idea is to at once make yourself rich from your enemies goods, and also bleed your enemy dry of resources. (Below I will give you a nice quote about Muhammad's raids.)

But I want to suggest the parallel today, that the these raids, as in the days of Muhammad and the various Islamic Caliphates afterwards--when Muslim horsemen would raid Christian and Jewish villages, killing the men and taking the women and children to be sold as slaves as well as their agricultural produce, are still going on, just in a different form.

The parallel is in emigration, both legal and illegal. Whereby Muslim mujaahidiin gain entry to countries with jobs and resources that Muslims countries don't have, and benefit from the rule of law and freedoms afforded there. But at the same time the resources of those societies are being bled dry by the constant threat of terrorism. Consider the example in the USA of the TSA, and how much it costs, and how it is basically a response to Islamic jihad. Or consider this nice story:

BRITISH police and security agencies are monitoring 30 terrorism plots, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said in extracts of a newspaper interview released today. "We now face a threat level that is severe. It's not getting any less, it's actually growing,'' she said in an interview to be published tomorrow in News of the World.

"We task the police and the security agencies with protecting us ... There are 22,000 individuals they are monitoring. There are 200 networks. There are 30 active plots,'' she said....

Here we have the wonderful example of a country spending huge amounts of time and money so that a non-native population can stay in the country. Said population to a large degree has little respect or appreciation for the heritage and tradition of that country, but they will use freedom of the press and laws on religious libel to further their own freedoms while limiting those of others, as well as the economic prosperity provided by the UK to fund the destruction of that very government.

The raids continue today.

And now, on this history of the raids, this is from HERE:

After his eviction by the Meccans, Muhammad and his Muslims found refuge many miles away in Medina where they were not bothered by their former adversaries. Despite this, Muhammad sent his men on seven unsuccessful raids against Meccan caravans before finally finding one, whereupon they murdered the driver and plundered the contents. This particular caravan was especially vulnerable because the attack came during the holy months, when the merchants were least expecting it.

[A Muslim raider] who had shaved his head, looked down on them [the Meccan caravan], and when they saw him they felt safe and said, "They are pilgrims, you have nothing to fear from them." (Ibn Ishaq 423)

Islam was a different sort of religion than what these caravan drivers were used to however:

[The Muslim raiders] encouraged each other, and decided to kill as many as they could of them and take what they had. (Ibn Ishaq 424)

This was the first deadly encounter between Meccans and Muslims, and it is of acute embarrassment to contemporary Muslim apologists, who like to say that Islam is against killing in any case other than self-defense.

For this reason, there has arisen the modern myth that the Muslims were simply “taking back” what was theirs (rather than exacting revenge and stealing). The 1976 movie, “The Message,” explicitly perpetuates this misconception, even though there is absolutely no evidence for it.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

EN 41: indestructible witness and martyrdom

§40 is the beginning of Section IV, and sets up the question: how to evangelize? Paul makes some comments about how it is especially the role of the bishop to decide how to evangelize, which is ironic because the evangelism I have seen in the Catholic church usually happens despite the hierarchy, not because of it. Of course my experience is quite limited and I'm guessing there are bishops out there who wake up and ask, how can I seek the conversion of the people in this city?

But the central question has turned to one of method, after discussing the definition of evangelism, and then its relation to liberation and politics and human rights.

§41 stipulates that "the first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentically Christian life, given over to God in a communion that nothing should destroy and at the same time given to one's neighbor with limitless zeal." Again we note the personal-communal balance which Paul has so carefully preserved, quite explicitly, several times. And when I hear 'that nothing should destroy,' from over here in Dar al Islam, I think of martyrdom and physical persecution right away. It is simply a fact of life here for the Christian who is an active witness to non-Christians.

And then here we have a very quotable line:

"Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses."

Which seems prescient to me. He was writing in 1975 which one could say was during the shift or mutation from Modernism to post-modernism, and thus the primacy of personal experience over didactic teaching. Let us also recall that in Greek the words 'martyr' and 'witness' are the same.

But I must say that I have found a certain romanticism about persecution among Christians in the West. Everyone likes to quote Tertullian: the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. In general it is true that there is a spiritual dynamic to the Kingdom of God which subverts or deconstructs the patterns of ordering of our age--"nostra aetate". But when one considers the desert of North Africa which was once home to a vibrant Christian community, or Asia Minor which is now the spiritual wasteland of Turkey, one must amend Tertullian (himself from North Africa):

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, except when Islam is involved.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A raw deal for families in the UK and Yemen

I ran across both of these today while reading through my collection of feeds. (If you read more than three or four blogs, and are not using Google Reader, i highly recommend you give it a try.)

First we have some bad news about marriages in the UK:

UK loses interest in marriage
By: Matt Cresswell.

THE DECLINING interest in marriage, revealed in official figures last week, has been blamed on economic pressure by leading Christian marriage experts.

Financial worries are a particular concern, with fewer and fewer young couples even able to afford a wedding after battling rising house prices and student loans.

Their comments come after the figures released by the Office of National Statistics revealed marriage rates in England and Wales for 2006 are the lowest since records began in 1862.

Various factors are blamed, especially the high price of housing and the UK's tax system which actually treatss a cohabitating couple more favorably than a married couple.

And on the other end of the spectrum, some news from Yemen, which I was not surprised to learn:

Yemen is ranked number one in the world in gender inequality. One study found that rural women work 17 hours a day on average. Domestic abuse is not considered a crime nor is it socially unacceptable. Women are required by law to submit to their husband’s sexual demands-ie, there is no such thing as marital rape in Yemen. Rape is a largely under-reported crime because social mores blame the victim.

The laws do not criminalize underage marriage. In rural areas, the marriage age for females is often 10 to 14. In cities, the marriage age rises to a whopping 14 to 16. Children over the age of seven automatically are awarded to the husband in a divorce, and many wives stay in an abusive marriage in order not to lose their children. Efforts to change the laws are repeatedly thwarted by the government which relies on the support of Salafi hardliners in order to retain power. Some fundamentalists advance the idea that women should leave their homes only twice, once to marry and once to go to the graveyard.

Women often have problems taking possession of their legal inheritances, which are confiscated by male relatives. Genital female mutilation is a regular practice, found mostly in the countryside. One method includes placing hot stones on an infant girl’s genitalia for several weeks. Women in the work place face discrimination and harassment. Few women work outside the home, except for domestic farming which is the primarily an unpaid position. Women less than fully veiled face discrimination and harassment. Female activists are regularly slandered by the government media as immoral.

The title of that story is "Eight-year old seeks divorce" over at the irrepressible

All this to say that the health of a civilization is, I think, directly related to the health of its families. In God's design for humanity there are ultimately only three indispensable institutions: the state which safeguards the temporal good, the church which safeguards the eternal good of the people, and the family. The human family is engineered right into the biological fabric of Creation and is the cornerstone and foundation of everything else.

The examples above show that the governments of the UK and Yemen are doing the same thing: they are actively harming themselves (as governments) by promoting unjust models of the human family. If I became president of the US or Prime Minister of the UK or what have you I would I would model my entire policy around the question: what can I do to make life better for families?

Our governments in the West are declining because they assumed they would always have the base of strong families, so they asked, how can we take care of the weak who are not in families, like single mothers and co-habitating couples and gay partners and so on. The answer to that question: take care of your strong base of traditional families.

That is Abu Daoud's ONE post for Friday. On Saturday or Sunday I will get around to posting a new installment of blogging evangelii nuntiandi.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Thanks for commenting

Hey all, I just wanted to say thanks for leaving comments, I wish more readers would. It makes blogging funner (if 'blogging' is a word then 'funner' should be too).

So yeah, thank you.

Orate Fratres, and, Trouble in the Vatican

I have taken too long to link to this fine blog:

Orate Fratres, a blog on prayer and fasting.

Once on Orate Fratres they even prayed for yours truly, what a blessing and encouragement that is.

Also, it sounds like the pope is having a hard time keeping some of his cardinals in line over in the Eternal City. Listen to it HERE.

Muslim conversions and money?

I wonder if the rosy numbers you often hear about Muslim conversions to Christianity are artificially inflated "to keep the donors donating." How much of that practice is there?

This question is from an anonymous reader.

This is a really good question, so let me just make a couple of points.

1) Some ministries are way more guilty of number inflation than others. I would say this is especially true of radio and TV ministries and probably more true in the charismatic ministries. Why? Because when your ministry is based on the premise that you are special because the Holy Spirit is more active with YOU then you have to produce better numbers.

2) Numbers are very hard to come by. Converting from Islam is illegal in most every Arab country so it is not the kind of thing that you can easily get info about, so we have to do the best we can with the information we have. Some ministries and individuals exaggerate, some probably under-estimate numbers. It is one thing to high-ball an estimate and another thing (I think) to intentionally lie.

3) Pay attention to language: if an internet ministry says they receive 300 inquiries per month, that is what it means. They are inquiries. It could be something like, "Can you help me get a visa to emigrate?" or "I would like to marry a Christian woman, can you help me find one?" Those are inquiries, just like, "I would like to have a Bible, where can I get one?" or "Can you direct me to a church where I can be baptized?" or "Haven't you read the Quran, and don't you know you are going to hell?" So pay attention to the language. Often it is the receiving end that misconstrues what has been said.

I have told people myself, "In any given week I have several conversations about things like Jesus, religion, and the Bible." Which is true. Some people conclude from this that each person I speak with has received an adequate explanation of the Gospel--which is not what I said at all.

4) Size of ministry matters: if you support the Jones missionary family in Whateverstan then they will be able to give you good, detailed information on the people they are investing their time in. You can even ask them year over year, what happened to Mahmood and his family? and they will be able to answer your question. This is why in general I think that it is a good idea to use some of your missions tithe to support individuals or families, and not just big ministries. (Obviously I belong to the former group so perhaps I am biased.)

5) All that having been said, the number of converts certainly is going up. There can be no denying that. Is it millions? Of course not. Is it tens of thousands per year? Certainly. Hundreds of thousands? Hard to say. Will some of them fall away? Yeah. But in the end, some of those conversions are sincere and life-changing. It is, we should not be surprised, much like the parable of the sower.

I hope that answers your question. If you doubt a ministries numbers ask how they arrived at those figures. If they try to explain it to you and admit that these numbers are estimates, then they are probably trustworthy. If not, then I wouldn't support them financially.

Largest Church in the World: Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro

This is very bizarre. The largest church building in the world is in a fairly small city with a tiny Catholic population. But it looks like a fascinating place, so enjoy the pictures and some good info from The Epoch Times:

The world's largest Christian church has 7,000 individually air-conditioned seats, standing-room for 11,000 in a surrounding 3ha marble plaza, and enough room for 100,000 more – 300,000 at a squeeze – beyond that.

Yet the chances of even the 7,000 seats ever all being occupied at one time are about nil, because rather than finding this church in one of the great cities of the world, you'll discover it in a community of just 120,000 people in the middle of the jungled hills, arid plains and farmlands of Africa's Ivory Coast.

And poverty, for few homes away from this city's strange CBD have even the basics of running water and sanitation.

We're talking about Yamoussoukro, the Ivory Coast's capital, and it's unusual Roman Catholic Basilica of Our Lady of Peace.

Which is the more bizarre is a matter of conjecture. Twenty-odd years ago the country's then-President, Felix Houphouet-Boigny decided that the little village of Yamoussoukro, his birthplace, would become the country's new capital.

He enthusiastically set about the conversion, building with his own and taxpayer money, universities, hotels, an 18-hole golf course for visiting dignitaries, lush parklands, boarding schools, and eight-lane boulevards to link the lot.

Plus an airport that was the only one in Africa big enough to take the Concorde, a presidential palace with a lake stocked with scores of Sacred Caymans (crocodiles,) and the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace.

And while visitors today still land at that airport, can play 18-holes, stay and dine 5-star at the swank 15-storey Hotel President (naturally,) find themselves on boulevards to nowhere, and watch the afternoon feeding of the crocodiles at the palace, it's the Basilica they want to see.

(And amidst all else, they discover a scattering of government buildings, modern and traditional stores and businesses, and homes of the less well-off.)

Modelled largely along the lines of St Peter's in Rome that took 109 years to build, the Yamoussoukro Basilica cost USD$300m and took 1,500 largely-Ivorians just three years to construct.

President Houphouet-Boigny thought it only appropriate that Pope John Paul II officially consecrate the building, but when the Vatican learned that its African St Peter's look-alike was going to be higher than the original, it laid down two rules: one was that the dome of Yamoussoukro Basilica not be higher than St Peter's, and the other that a hospital for the poor be built near the new church.

The President concurred… but somehow, just somehow, the cross on his Basilica is 17m higher than that of St Peter's. [...]

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Report on Sept. 6 strike to show Saddam transferred WMDs to Syria

Who knows if this is true, but if it is then it's big news:

Report on Sept. 6 strike to show Saddam transferred WMDs to Syria

An upcoming joint US-Israel report on the September 6 IAF strike on a Syrian facility will claim that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein transferred weapons of mass destruction to the country, Channel 2 stated Monday.

Furthermore, according to a report leaked to the TV channel, Syria has arrested 10 intelligence officials following the assassination of Hizbullah terror chief Imad Mughniyeh.

[Jerusalem Post]

Christianity Today: Jordan evicts evangelicals

Country hailed for tolerance deports at least 27 Christians.


Jordan said through its U.S. embassy that the deportations came in response to complaints from Catholic and Orthodox bishops about evangelicals' proselytizing. Much of evangelicals' growth has come from the conversion of nominal Catholic and Orthodox believers.

However, one evangelical leader in Jordan said multiple factors, including new pastors with better training, increased access to satellite TV and the Internet, and prayer are combining to draw Jordanians to the Christian faith.

"I wish what the government accuses us of doing was true, that we are doing evangelism, giving Bibles away, going to the streets," he said. "But these people are just coming to us, and they have a hunger."

Jordan's moderate government is facing growing political pressure from at least three sources: Islamic fundamentalism, turmoil in surrounding nations, and the economic strain of hosting almost one million Iraqi refugees. Observers say reducing the number of foreign evangelicals allowed the government to build political capital with both Muslim hardliners and Christian bishops.

"Jordan has bigger problems than missionaries," said one longtime missionary in the country. "Jordan is more afraid of internal security threats than of religion."

Some of the deportations can also be attributed to well-intended Western missionaries with flawed practices. "Too much of the evangelical 'evangelism' in Jordan is spurred on by demands from sending agencies in America who require quick results and statistics that assure donors of success by American church-growth standards," said Leonard Rodgers, executive director of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding.

Observers said missionaries to Jordan should devote more attention to interfaith and ecumenical discussions, and to strengthening indigenous Jordanian churches. [...]

Inter-Christian relations in the Middle East

One of the most contentious issues right now among the small Christian communities throughout the Middle East concerns the relationship between evangelicals and the traditional Orthodox and Catholic churches. There is an article on it at CT but here is the section I found interesting:

5. The need for cooperation between evangelicals and non-evangelicals. It was indeed shocking and sad that the council of the Catholic and Orthodox bishops in Jordan denounced the presence of the evangelical churches and their institutions in the newspapers and television, resulting in further media backlash. This has brought pain and confusion to the average Jordanian citizen and shame to Christians in the eyes of Arabs in the region. It is difficult to understand how the Catholics and Orthodox churches call on the cessation of all evangelical activity in the country when they and the evangelical churches are equally registered as churches in the country; both have the same common foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bible, and at least the Nicene, Athanasian, and Chalcedonian creeds, and they together do not constitute more than 3 percent of the population!

It is understandable that many Catholics and Orthodox Christians are angry that some evangelicals view them as not being true believers. Surely some evangelicals err in this regard and should cease from judging others. But evangelicals are good people and sincerely seek to serve Christ and see all who carry Christ's name walk in truth with him. They desire to share the weight of this responsibility with all churches that have the same vision. Yet it is imperative that intervention takes place at the highest ecclesiastical level to seek ways of cooperation.

"Organised demonize Islam"

Notice how there is no evidence that Muslims or Islam or the Quran might actually be responsible for the increasingly negative perceptions of Islam in the West. Rather we have an organized crusade! I only wish we had the organizational proqess that Dr. Khan attributes to us. Notice also how we lumps BXVI's baptism of Magdi Cristiano Allam in there as part of a smear campaign against Islam:

Countering Western anti-Islam media spin

Dr Adalat Khan

It is sad to note that now a days in the Western Media Islam bashing has become fashionable and oft and on we see provocative articles, cartoons, videos and other propaganda items against Islam and the Muslims. A latest slur is the fifteen minutes video by the racist anti-immigration right wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders called fitna. This film features violent imagery of terrorist attacks in New York and Madrid set against passages from the Holy Quran that are distorted and taken out of context. Under the guise of freedom of speech irresponsible politicians such as Wilder are stirring hatred against Muslims not only in their own country but throughout the world. Wilder is not alone in this malicious spin, but it would seem that an organized crusade by the vested interests in the West has been unleashed to demonise Islam and Muslims.

It is reported that a theatre in Germany is staging a play based on the infamous book Satanic Verses of Salman Rushdi, while a few weeks ago Pope Benedict was seen baptizing the conversion of a Muslim journalist from Egypt during Easter. It was the same Pope who last year delivered a lecture in which he gave hateful interpretation to the Prophet Muhammad’s mission.

In year 2006, a Danish newspaper published cartoons of Prophet (PBUH) linking him to bombs and terror. [...] It is in fact an organized and systematic Western campaign to malign Islam and impose their hegemony over the Muslim world. [...]

Monday, April 07, 2008

EN 38: The Church, liberation, and loss of identity

32. We must not ignore the fact that many, even generous Christians who are sensitive to the dramatic questions involved in the problem of liberation, in their wish to commit the Church to the liberation effort are frequently tempted to reduce her mission to the dimensions of a simply temporal project.

§32 comes after a discussion of how the act of evangelism, which let us remember, has been explained essentially as seeking conversion, cannot be separated from the search for justice and, a word that will come back to haunt the Vatican, liberation.

What we find in §32 is an attempt to temper the previous statements in favor of liberation and equality. But it ended up not being strong enough language, or perhaps it simply was ignored after pope Paul's glowing remarks about liberation and justice.

Thee clash between orthodoxy and some of the more radical liberation theologians and liberation practitioners (for lack of a better word) came to a head with the issuance of Splendor of Truth, and encyclical by John Paul II, wherein certain excesses of liberation theology were castigated thoroughly.

But what we see here in §32 is, I think, the main argument against liberation theology that is unpacked by JPII. But clearly, Paul saw the danger before-hand and denounced it. The section continues:

Her activity, forgetful of all spiritual and religious preoccupation, would become initiatives of the political or social order. But if this were so, the Church would lose her fundamental meaning. Her message of liberation would no longer have any originality and would easily be open to monopolization and manipulation by ideological systems and political parties.

Which is what, I think, we have in many of the side-line denominations (ELCA, UMC, Episcopal Church, C of E, the European state churches, Presbyterian, etc) and to some extent, yes, the Roman Catholic Church as well. Of course there are pockets of life in all of these, but at the end of the day to lost sight of the fact that in evangelizing we are seeking an interior conversion and that, to put it bluntly, heaven and hell are real and everyone will end up in one of the two, is for the church to lose her originality and fundamental meaning. The difference between those denominations and Rome is that the power structure in the Roman church is such that if you have good popes (and they have been good since Paul VI days) you have the ability to steer the church back towards the right direction.

Such is generally not the case in the various Protestant churches I have listed. Through a curious, and perhaps cruel, irony of history they seem very resistant to self-reform, leaving the faithful with the "remedy" of just forming a new denomination.

Tidbits: Food Prices, Freedom not Dead Yet

I've said this before, but food prices will just keep going up and up, largely because of a confluence of several factors:

-increasing fuel prices
-poor agricultural use of land
-increasing consumption of meat
-population growth

There are more reasons than that, but those are some of the big ones. As tension continues to rise look for attempts to overthrow local governments. Providing basic, cheap food supplies is really one of the main things governments are expected to do, and not doing it is one of the things that makes the masses of the poor rise up:

Price shock in global food

And here, a Dutch court has refused to ban Fitna: the movie. Freedom is still alive, for now.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Mark Bowers: Why Anglicanism?

Well, between Erik Twist's "Why Catholic?" series and my blogging on Evangelii Nuntiandi, and my defense of icons against a (sorta) fellow Anglican, you all must be wondering, "Now is Abu Daoud really Anglican?" The answer is yes, my friends. Yes, I am. Not always happy about it, but like any big family we have our share of problems and (I think) we're trying to figure out how to deal with them. (In sha'allah we will cut off the fruitless branches soon and cast them into the fire where they will be totally consumed, God be praised.)

So, I was encouraged to read Mark Bowers' short tale of how he ended up in Anglicanism, and he has given me permission to share it with you all. For the sake of context you should know he is answering the question, "How do we get more young adults into our Anglican churches?"

This is a good topic, but as good topic usually go, one with no easy answer. I was personally raised in what I consider to be an extreme fundamentalist home of the Baptist persuasion. I was so entrenched within this stuff that after high school I spent four years in a fundamentalist Bible College. Those four years finally managed to turn me off to that brand of Christianity, and being jaded and weary, I naturally went in for the non-denominational, coffee-shop-esque, rock-n-rollish, seeker-sensitive type of thing. After five years of that, I then began considering leaving the faith altogether. It seemed as if within Christianity there were only two options: prideful narrow-mindedness or cheap gimmicks. Neither of which seemed an attribute that Jesus could possibly have wanted his church to be known by.

Anyhow, after a year of trying in vain to flee from faith, I discovered at the age of 28 the Episcopal Church. I became hopeful once more and invigorated about my faith. And what drew me here? Books. For all of the problems that the Anglican Communion is facing at the moment, they still have within their ranks some of the most brilliant writer's within Christianity. NT Wright and Rowan Williams in particular presented to me the gospel in a light that was more hopeful, thorough, honest and challenging than anything I had before imagined. It was within the balance between tradition and rationality that is so characteristic of the Anglican faith that I finally found rest.

I too think many of the current trends lack reverence and depth and in many ways have very little in common with traditional Christianity whatsoever, but at the same time I don't want to go around pointing fingers (although that is really hard for me sometimes being that I am an ex-fundamentalist). I'm also a little wary of strategizing to bring a certain demographic back to a particular denomination. I would be just as happy if 20-somethings would get involved in a faithful Methodist Church as I would an Anglican. But I do think the Anglican Church has a lot to offer my generation that many of the current Dr. Phil/rock-n-roll churches do not. Things such as tradition, history, beauty, art, honesty, humility, social concern, open-mindedness and intellectual stimulation. The average X-er and Y is concerned about at least some of these things, and if they are actually going to church and it happens to be one of the aforementioned Oprah churches, they are probably unaware that the church speaks to these issues at all. And if unlike me, they are not lucky enough to stumble across some good authors, they may end up leaving the faith altogether. I guess my advice for drawing 20-somethings back to Anglicanism or just faithful Christianity in general would be to go be-friend some. Friends and friendly authors are about the only people who have ever influenced me. Finger pointers never have and never will.

Here is his blog: MarkABowers

Why do I spend time talking to people like JMW?

JMW had posted some material about icons, saying that the veneration of icons is exactly identical to the worship of idols. I disagreed. While I don't think that the veneration of icons is required of anyone, it is certainly not idolatry. We went back and forth at his blog arguing about it, including questions of historical councils, Anglican authority, and--my main point--hermeneutics.

In any case, James, a reader of this blog posted this question in the comment thread to a post:

Abu Daoud:

Just read your exchanges with JMW. I have to ask, why bother arguing with him? The man is obviously hyper-Protestant (Calvinist maybe?) and is not going to be convinced. From a quick reading he appears to be citing some things out of context and trying to get other quotes to mean things that they clearly do not. He also appears to have found the only Latin Iconoclast there was to quote from.

They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand (Isaiah 44:18). Appropriate description and particularly ironic since Isaiah was condemning idolatry. You are correct that JMW does not understand the distinction between adoration/worship and dulia/veneration; and he does not want to learn. His eyes are shut.

James G

Here is my response to James, I thought it was helpful enough to post it as its own entry:

James: normally Christians who will appeal to something beyond their own individual opinion [like JMW] should be engaged in conversation. I mean, if we can appeal to, say, tradition when we are asking questions about how to interpret the Bible, then that is a good starting place.

I thought I could do that with JMW. After all, we are both Anglicans and neither of is a flaky liberal, which I thought would give us a good point of departure.

Eventually it got to the point where I simply did have to say that he was engaged in private interpretation, or what we might call the heresy of Americanism, where you just choose what [doctrines] you like and reject what you don't like.

He has chosen some pretty exotic examples from tradition, I have chosen examples that are much stronger and I thought he would entertain my position. He didn't.

I think ultimately it is clear that, at least hermeneutically, he is a fundamentalist, which is not always bad mind you. But here it is. It all ended when he said that the meaning [of the passages about not bowing before images] was clear and did not need to be taken in context. There is no text without a context. Direct contact with the meaning of a text which is not mediated is, at the end of the day, Romanticism. Which might work at the opera or in poetry, but does not work in theology or religion.

Of course Don, another reader, had a much more succinct answer which brought a smile (ibtisaam--it's a girl's name in Arabic) to my face:

...In his line of mission work, the first thing you learn is to dialogue with people who might kill you. After you have passed that threshold, people like JMW are a snap.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

EN 28: a communion of signs

§27: salvation is not about fulfilling material needs but is "transcendent and eschatological" and is "fulfilled in eternity."

§28 speaks of the sacraments, which is a particular area of interest to me since evangelical missions to Muslims have tended to be (not surprisingly) almost entirely empty from a sacramental point of view. Here is the statement:

The preaching likewise [...] of the search for God Himself through prayer which is principally that of adoration and thanksgiving, but also through communion with the visible sign of the encounter with God which is the Church of Jesus Christ; and this communion in its turn is expressed by the application of those other signs of Christ living and acting in the Church which are the sacraments.

Here we have the theme of the search for God, which is in itself a response to God's already-present grace and revelation, and we find that our search for God takes place primarily in two ways: through prayer, and through communion in the church. Note that the sacraments then are not to be seen as acts or deeds or (irhamna ya rrab) 'works', but as a component of seeking God as part of a community. In other words, evangelicals often teach the former--seeking God through prayer--which one can do in isolation. But the other thing, seeking God within a communion that possesses 'signs' that point beyond themselves to the eternal Kingdom and being of God--that is rarely found.

Perhaps a better grasp of this concept of seeking God within a communion of signs would increase the effectiveness of the evangelical mission to Muslims. One need not go all the way to Rome or Orthodoxy to find a sacramental, evangelical framework. In fact the early Protestant missioners in Persia were Anglicans and Presbyterians and in reading their stories one finds quite clearly that baptism and Communion were major concerns. But there are other signs too, as mentioned in my previous post on Church Planting Movements, such as Holy Orders, that engender additional questions rather than answers.

Evangelii Nuntiandi §26 and Personal Jesus

I know I've pointed out that IMHO EN is a very evangelical document (pr Apostolic Exhortation to be precise), but after reading §26 I have to reiterate the point.

§25 starts by acknowledging that there are secondary points to evangelism which are conditioned by time, place, and culture--all things that have been mentioned before in the encyclical. But then it goes on in §26 to delineate the factors that "cannot be modified or ignored."

We find the following, which is what caught my attention:

But it is fully evangelizing in manifesting the fact that for man the Creator is not an anonymous and remote power; He is the Father: "...that we should be called children of God; and so we are."

Can we say 'personal relationship'? That phrase seems to come quite easily to mind after reading this. Or we can also point out that favorite and venerable evangelistic tool: the God-shaped whole in our hearts, which is also mentioned:

Perhaps this attestation of God will be for many people the unknown God whom they adore without giving Him a name, or whom they seek by a secret call of the heart when they experience the emptiness of all idols.

BXVI and Magdi: called to discover Christ

[...] The fact that Benedict XVI accepted to personally celebrate the baptism of Magdi Allam is surprising. It must also be said that he did so without ostentation, giving the same importance to all 7 baptised, and not giving precedence to the Muslim convert. This emphasis on the Islamic convert is the work of the press, overly used to attributing political meanings.

But Benedict XVI wanted to underline that everyone, Muslim, Atheist, Christians who have abandoned the faith, are all called to the faith. He wanted to affirm the universality of the Christian calling, not because we Christians are the largest group, but to underline that every human being is called by Jesus. Everyone has the right to know Christ. No-one is excluded.

Of course, the presence of a Muslim among the catechumens is a sign for the Islamic world. It is the most recalcitrant group to recognise this step. The pope, without violence or acridity seems to be saying: You too are called to discover Christ and to enter into the Church, if you so desire. [...]

The entire article is well worth the read.

Diluting the Concept of Mission

Lausanne World Pulse has just published their most recent articles which you can check out at Here is one section that caught my attention:

The broadened concept of “mission” which seems prevalent in our day equates all that the Church does as mission. We might ask ourselves if we have so diluted the term “missionary” that it has become a catch-all word with accrued baggage that allows for almost any kind of overseas work or anything vaguely connected with the gospel to be called “mission.”

As a result, we have career “missionaries” who bear little resemblance to the New Testament apostle or evangelist (perhaps the closest counterpart to the non-biblical term “missionary”). This is not to criticize the good work they have done, nor to impugn their motives; however, when “missionaries” are engaged in ministry that does not result in planting reproductive fellowships of saved, baptized disciple, then we do well to reevaluate our present situation. What does it say about our concept of mission when evangelicals are “disturbed by the continuing flood of church-planting teams into various people groups in the world”? Should we not rather be disturbed if this were not done?

--Stephen Davis

Friday, April 04, 2008

"The Church of Oprah" or "I liked it better when it was called gnosticism"

For those of you interested in USA pop-culture stuff and the victory of gnosticism (%$# Zwingli):

Ayatolla Khatami on Fitna: The Movie

Khatami stressed, "The fact that rather than sound logic they have begun swearing and insulting proves that the anti-Islamic figures have no sound, logical point worth proper presentation, which has accidentally been the case ever since the advent of Islam." He added, "They notice that the plans they had devised for hundreds of years have borne absolutely no fruit, which is the reason why they have begun conducting such wretched moves."

From HERE.

EN and Church Planting Movements

I have been blogging on Evangelii Nuntiandi for a week or so now and I have found that it in many ways portended trends in evangelical missions to the Muslim world. (I wish I could say the same for Catholic missions to the Muslim world, but I don't know of any Catholics in MENA who have expressed a desire to see Muslims converting, and I have talked with a good number of them.)

The first trend is at the end of EN21:

"All Christians are called to this witness, and in this way they can be real evangelizers. We are thinking especially of the responsibility incumbent on immigrants in the country that receives them."

In fact this does and has happened, more and more intentionally in recent years. In fact one might call it evangelistic emigration, where Christians from places in S. Asia and E. Asia emigrate to places like the Gulf States with the intention of spreading the Gospel and with the blessing of their churches. Often times this migrants are working in very humbles positions like construction or as maids or nannies, so their access to certain sectors of society are limited, which is a slight drawback.

The second trend is in EN 24:

Finally, the person who has been evangelized goes on to evangelize others. Here lies the test of truth, the touchstone of evangelization: it is unthinkable that a person should accept the Word and give himself to the kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn.

The name of this strategy that I have heard is "training the trainer," though though are other names. The traditional model in missions was to send out a pastor-missioner or a group of missionaries who would start a church and then run the church. A missioner could easily spend his entire career with one church which he had worked hard to found and then pastor. The drawback was that it just did not make a big impact. That is not to say that effective work will always make a big impact, but certainly it should some times.

So the idea came about: get a handful of solid converts, train them to pastor a church and send them to start their own churches. Build the replication of churches into the DNA of the community so that people at these new churches simply assume that it is normal that, should they move to a new town or should their church grow, that they should start a new church in their front yard or shop. These churches tend to be small, agile, and messy. Because they multiply so quickly it is nearly impossible for the original missionaries to enforce doctrinal orthodoxy on all of them. It is called a church planting movement, and if you want to know more about CPM's then just Google the term.

There has never been a successful CPM in an Arab Muslim country, though we have seen results in other Muslim regions. In any case, EN does not explicitly outline the CPM, but it does state the basic concept.

What is particularly fascinating is this question: could there be a Catholic CPM? Given that Holy Orders is a sacrament in the RC tradition is a very weighty matter, it seems risky to ordain someone who has been baptized for all of a few weeks, but that is in fact what happens in a CPM. On the other hand, since only a priest can preside over Communion, it seems like ordination would be needed fairly soon, with the reserved sacrament being used for a period of time. We should also remember that if there is no clergy present, any Christian can baptize a new convert.

Even then, it is difficult to see how a CPM could prosper within a clergy-centered tradition like Catholicism or Orthodoxy.

MacGyver meets Islamic Terror

I was just impressed by the ingenuity involved here. But first, the plot:

"These men were actively engaged in a deadly plan designed to bring about what would have been, had they been successful, a civilian death toll from an act of terrorism on an almost unprecedented scale.

"If each of these aircraft was successfully blown up the potential for loss of life was indeed considerable.

"And there would be little if any chance of saving any of them from their impending disaster.

"For when the mid-flight explosions began the authorities would be unable to prevent the other flights from meeting a similar fate as they would already be in mid air and carrying their deadly cargo."

And here is the ingenuity:

Ali, 27, married with a young son, also had a pocket notebook in which a "blueprint" for making the bombs and carrying out the plot was written.

Plastic Oasis and Lucozade bottles were to be used by the plotters to make their liquid bombs.

A hypodermic syringe would be inserted into the base to draw out the drink and the bomb mixture would be injected in its place.

A homemade detonator called hexamethylene triperoxide and also known as HMTD would be made from a mixture of household and commercial ingredients and disguised in AA batteries.

Bulbs and wires would connect the bomb mixture with disposable cameras to trigger a charge to set it off.

From HERE.

A father of the Church in Spain: Isidore of Seville

St. Isidore of Seville

The 76 years of Isidore's life were a time of conflict and growth for the Church in Spain. The Visigoths had invaded the land a century and a half earlier and shortly before Isidore's birth they set up their own capital. They were Arians—Christians who said Christ was not God. Thus Spain was split in two: One people (Catholic Romans) struggled with another (Arian Goths).
Isidore reunited Spain, making it a center of culture and learning, a teacher and guide for other European countries whose culture was also threatened by barbarian invaders.

Born in Cartagena of a family that included three other saints, he was educated (severely) by his elder brother, whom he succeeded as bishop of Seville.

An amazingly learned man, he was sometimes called "The Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages" because the encyclopedia he wrote was used as a textbook for nine centuries. He required seminaries to be built in every diocese, wrote a Rule for religious orders and founded schools that taught every branch of learning. Isidore wrote numerous books, including a dictionary, an encyclopedia, a history of Goths and a history of the world—beginning with creation! He completed the Mozarabic liturgy, which is still in use in Toledo, Spain. For all these reasons Isidore (as well as several other saints) has been suggested as patron of the Internet.

He continued his austerities even as he approached 80. During the last six months of his life, he increased his charities so much that his house was crowded from morning till night with the poor of the countryside
. [...]

Thursday, April 03, 2008

I was right about icons, ok?

If you need to be convinced further read this about the agreement of the Orthodox and Anglicans regarding icons. I'm not posting a chunk of it since a lot of you are neither Anglican nor Orthodox, but if you are it is well worth the read:

The Confessing Reader on icons

EN 20: "to evangelize man's ... cultures"

Evangelii Nuntiandi 20:

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

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

The split between the Gospel and culture is without a doubt the drama of our time, just as it was of other times. Therefore every effort must be made to ensure a full evangelization of culture, or more correctly of cultures. They have to be regenerated by an encounter with the Gospel. But this encounter will not take place if the Gospel is not proclaimed.

I remember reading EN back in grad school when I was studying for my MA in Theology and this passage really struck me as insightful. I think the relation between culture and the Kingdom is outlined quite accurately. They are not the same thing, but they are not mutually exclusive. Since the Kingdom is to flourish in the lives of men and women who inextricably live within their culture then the interaction of the Kingdom and culture is inevitable.

Moreover one could say that in fact the target of evangelization is not so much individuals, but the entire culture. This reminds me of Andrew Walls’ point that the Great Commission is about discipling “peoples,” not persons. I think we have really lost this aspect of evangelism in our day.

Regarding the ‘thin veneer’ I think of some rural places in Latin America where Christianity is like that: a thin veneer over a heart of paganism. This is unfortunate, but the challenge must always be faced. For Christians are always called to make choices that could mean to either compromise the Kingdom by discarding essential elements of its identity, or doing violence to the culture they are trying to evangelize by mutilating it needlessly.

We see this in MENA today as the debate about contextualization proceeds. In many ways it is a case of evangelicals fighting a battle that has been fought and settled before. But evangelical Christianity, despite its strengths, is well known for its lack of knowledge of church history. Evangelical Christian missionaries who suggest that a Muslim can follow Christ while still worshipping at the local mosque, reciting the shihada (‘No god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger’), and understand themselves to not be in the same body as traditional Christians is, in my opinion, applying a thin veneer.

The special challenge in MENA is that Arab culture is Islamic culture, and Islamic culture is Arabic: there is no separation. Islam does not fulfill cultures; it Arabicizes them because to live the sunna is to live like one specific Arab man in the 7th C. in the Arabian Penninsula.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Dispatch from the Eurabian Front: Austria

Depressing. Absolutely depressing:

The Austrian authorities have indicted politician Susanne Winter on charges of incitement and degradation of religious symbols and religious agitation. This offence carries a maximum sentence of two years. Last January, Ms Winter said that the prophet Muhammad was “a child molester” because he had married a six-year-old girl. She also said he was “a warlord” who had written the Koran during “epileptic fits.”

The politician, a member of the Austrian Freedom Party FPÖ, an anti-immigration party which is in opposition, added that Islam is “a totalitarian system of domination that should be cast back to its birthplace on the other side of the Mediterranean.” She also warned for “a Muslim immigration tsunami,” saying that “in 20 or 30 years, half the population of Austria will be Muslim” if the present immigration policies continue.

Following her remarks, Muslim extremists threatened to kill Susanne Winter and she was placed under police protection. Today, the Justice Department in Vienna announced that Ms Winter will be charged with “incitement and degradation of religious symbols” (Verhetzung und Herabwürdigung religiöser Symbole). If convicted she may have to serve up to two years in jail for her opinions.

However, Alfred Hrdlicka, the Austrian “artist” who depicted Jesus and his apostles engaging in homosexual acts of sodomy during the Last Supper, has not been indicted. Nor will he be. Depicting Jesus sodomizing his apostles is not considered to be a “degradation of religious symbols” in Austria, but referring to the historic fact that Muhammad married a six-year old girl is “incitement to racial hatred.”

Neither has Mr Hrdlicka been threatened by Christian assassins for his “opinions.” The difference between Christian and Muslim extremists is that the former do not aim to kill those who offend them, but the latter do – which is perhaps also why the European authorities fear the radical Muslims and persecute their opponents while they subsidize those who insult Christians.


"Abject Dhimmitude"

Wow, a first class rant:

Great cartoon :-)

England: "No more mosques"

ENGLAND: 'No more mosques' says Synod member
Alison Ruoff claims that building mega-mosques could help turn Britian into an Islamic state

by Ruth Gledhill
From Times Online
April 1, 2008

A prominent evangelical member of the Church of England's General Synod has called for a ban on the building of any more mosques in Britain.

Alison Ruoff also claimed that Sharia law is inevitable in this country if mosques continue to be built here.

Mrs Ruoff, a former magistrate, said in an interview with London's Premier Christian Radio that no more mosques should be built in Britain until all persecution of Christians in Muslim nations had ceased.

She said: "No more mosques in the UK. We are constantly building new mosques, which are paid for by the money that comes from oil states.

"We have only in this country as far as we know, 3.5 to four million Muslims. There are enough mosques for Muslims in this country, they don't need anymore.

"We don't need to have Sharia law which would come with more mosques imposed upon our nation, if we don't watch out, that would happen. If we want to become an Islamic state, this is the way to go.

"You build a mosque and then what happens? You have Muslim people moving into that area, all the shops will then become Islamic, all the housing will then become Islamic and as the Bishop of Rochester has so wisely pointed out, that will be a no-go area for anyone else.

"They will bring in Islamic law. We cannot allow that to happen."

Dr Michael Nazir-Ali enraged the Muslim community and received death threats against his family when he warned recently that parts of Britain had become no-go areas for non-Muslims.

The subsequent controversial speech on Islamic law by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, coincided with a concern among many of the Church's other bishops to mollify Britain's Muslims in the wake of Dr Nazir-Ali's comments. [...]

(HT to

Paddy on liturgy, church, and time

From HERE:

[...] In one way, this recognition has heightened my appreciation for Church practices all the more. Through the daily office, Morning and Evening Prayer, I find myself more attuned to the rhythm of living in dependent relation to God from day to day (Mt. 6:34). Through following the liturgical calendar, my life is set more to the seasonal rhythm of the life of Christ. Through honoring the Sabbath, I come to recognize the importance of rest--not for the sake of "efficiency"--but for a whole host of theological reasons, from recognizing my own limitations and dependence on God, to acknowledging my relation to the divine, and being a "co-creator", to a foretaste of the true rest offered in Christ.

Without these or other, similar disciplines (and no mistake, they require attention and effort!), I fear the Church runs the risk not only of becoming chronologically indistinguishable from the world, but also of becoming wholly incapable of understanding--and living into--the vast riches of the variance of the biblical seasons...a time for every matter under heaven (Ecc. 3:1)...and therefore the ability to follow our Lord's injunction to "interpret the times" (Mt. 16:3/Lk. 12:56). [...]

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Guidelines for hitting one's wife in Islam


Husband and wife were quarreling because of the second wife. in anger during the fight he held her head and hit it on the wall. she went into coma and never recovered until she died. Is he doomed, or will he be saved by intention.

What the husband did, holding his wife’s head and hitting it against the wall, is an evil act and is not permissible, because Allaah has not permitted striking the wife in this manner. Rather there is a concession allowing hitting her to discipline her, after exhorting her and forsaking her in bed, on the basis that it should not be a painful blow, and should not leave a mark or break a bone, and it should not be done with motives of revenge or to express one’s anger. [...]

Spending on the family

In al-Bukhaari (55) and Muslim (1002) it is narrated from Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:

“When a man spends on his family, hoping for reward, that is (counted as) an act of charity for him.”

In Muslim (2630) it is also narrated that ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said:

“A poor woman came to me carrying her two daughters, and I gave her three dates. She gave each of them a date, and raised one date to her mouth to eat it. Then her daughters asked her for more food, so she split the date that she had wanted to eat between them. I was impressed by her action and I told the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) what she had done. He said, ‘Because of that, Allaah has guaranteed Paradise for her, or saved her from Hell.’”

Evangelii Nuntiandi 18: evangelization and conversion

Evangelii Nuntiandi 18. For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new: "Now I am making the whole of creation new." But there is no new humanity if there are not first of all new persons renewed by Baptism and by lives lived according to the Gospel. The purpose of evangelization is therefore precisely this interior change, and if it had to be expressed in one sentence the best way of stating it would be to say that the Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieu which are theirs.

To some the emphasis on Baptism might seem like shallow sacramentalism or ritualism and if we are honest we all know people who have been baptized who are far from devout Christians and certainly do not reflect the Gospel life. But when I approach this definition of evangelism from the point of view of a missionary in the Middle East I am struck by how hard it is to find anything wrong with it.

But the pairing of baptism with 'lives lived according to the Gospel' should clarify that this is not at all what is being advocated, though in reality we see it all too often in the various churches that practice infant baptism.

This definition at once embraces the individual emphasis on conversion while seeing this as a conduit towards the evangelization of the whole community.

Also significant is the explicit 'all the strata of humanity,' which would seem to run against the preference for the poor found in liberation theology.

Finally, I note the qualifier on how the church converts others, 'solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims.' The implication is that there must be some sort of pseudo-evangelization, which is done in any other way. A conversion carried out via personal charisma or bribery or some such path--these examples come to mind.

Eastern Orthodoxy: Part IX

by Frederica Mathewes-Green:

What do you personally find the most challenging about Orthodoxy?

I keep finding that I have so much further to go. Well, to step back, the most challenging thing about Orthodoxy is that it dumps you right out at the place where it's you and Jesus and nowhere to hide. You have to deal with him. No excuses, no lies -- lies come from the evil one. As I continue to use the "workout routine" of the spiritual disciplines, I continue to discover that I am still lying to myself about so many things, I am still afraid, I am still lonely, and stubbornly choosing lonely freedom over loved humility. It's an endless struggle. I have been practicing the Jesus Prayer for twelve years, and I am still so far from "pray constantly." It's not a matter of feeling guilty, but more like recognizing that you are still flabby and out of shape and not ready to run the race. Orthodoxy keeps emphasizing God's compassion--that's another thing I noticed early on, that it keeps stressing that God forgives us freely and welcomes us like the father of the Prodigal Son. But I keep holding back. That's the most challenging thing.