Friday, May 30, 2008

Bp. Michael Nazir-Ali: a prophet rejected by his own people

There's precious little good news from England these days. Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury wants "limited" sharia' (I have told you what I think about that), and...well, I won't even go on with the list. Suffice to say that the government seems adamantly intent on Islamizing the whole country. Mamlakat al britaania al islamiyya anyone?

But there are glimpses of light here and there. Michael Nazir-Ali is one of them. This is from HERE, do click and read the whole profile:

..."If you want to go high in the Church of England you keep your nose clean and you become a safe pair of hands. That's what most of them are, but Nazir-Ali is a prophet and prophets are rejected in their own constituency, like Jesus was. He is a serious man for serious times. What you see in public is what you get in private," Eddy says.

"He's a major influence among Anglo-Catholics, evangelicals, and it's well-known that Rowan Williams and the bishop have not spoken in any detail for more than a year. If Rowan had consulted Michael about sharia law it would have saved the Church of England a lot of heartache."

Nazir-Ali's views have earned him some unflattering nicknames. But Andrew Brown, the church commentator, likens him to a Cambridge don. "He's conservative, he's clever and he's old-fashioned," Brown says. "We may not like him, but he is formidable. Whether he knows it or not, questions about Islam are a great way to marginalise liberals and will become the new battleground for the evangelical wing of the Church of England."

Thursday, May 29, 2008

UK will be Islamic nation in 2038

From HERE:

If recent reports of trends in religious observance prove to be correct, then in some 30 years the mosque will be able to claim that, religiously speaking, the UK is an Islamic nation, and therefore needs a share in any religious establishment to reflect this. The progress of conservative Islam in the UK has been amazing, and it has come at a time of prolonged decline in church attendance that seems likely to continue.

This progress has been enthusiastically assisted by this government in particular with its hard-line multi-cultural dogma and willingness to concede to virtually every demand made by Muslims. Perhaps most importantly the government has chosen to allow hard-liners to act as representing all Muslims, and more liberal Muslims have almost completely failed to produce any leadership voices to compete, leading many Britons to wonder if there are indeed many liberal Muslims at all, surely a mistake.

At all levels of national life Islam has gained state funding, protection from any criticism, and the insertion of advisors and experts in government departs national and local. A Muslim Home Office adviser, for example, was responsible for Baroness Scotland’s aborting of the legislation against honour killings, arguing that informal methods would be better. In the police we hear of girls under police protection having the addresses of their safe houses disclosed to their parents by Muslim officers who think they are doing their religious duty.

While men-only gentlemen’s clubs are now being dubbed unlawful, we hear of municipal swimming baths encouraging ‘Muslim women only’ sessions and in Dewsbury Hospitals staff waste time by turning beds to face Mecca five times a day — a Monty Pythonesque scenario of lunacy, but astonishingly true. Prisons are replete with imams who are keen to inculcate conservative Islam in any inmates who are deemed to be culturally ‘Muslim’: the Prison service in effect treats such prisoners as a cultural block to be preached to by imams at will. Would the Prison service send all those with ‘C of E’ on their papers to confirmation classes with the chaplain?! We could go on. [...]

HT to Jihad Watch.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mission, Sacrament, and Islam

For those of you interested in such things, St Francis Magazine which specializes in mission in the Arab world (isn't that awesome?) has just released online their June issue, which you can read HERE.

And especially let me recommend, of all the great articles on there, my own on mission and sacrament in relation to the church's mission to Islam. Download it by clicking HERE.

Also, my previous article on Apostates of Islam is still available, as is my Parable of the Prince and Letter.

Monday, May 26, 2008

John Gray on petroluem prices and war

The growing populations of the [Arabian] Gulf need high or rising oil prices. The US, Europe, Japan, China, and India need stable or falling oil prices. In itself, this could be a manageable conflict; but it coincides with a steep rise in fundamentalism. Rising population and falling incomes are fuelling anti-western movements. It is not easy to envisage a scenario in which these conflicts are peacefully resolved.

John Gray
Al Qaeda and what it means to be modern, p. 65
Faber & Faber, 2003

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Pray for Jamal

I went out today with a printout of the Sermon on the Mount in Arabic and ended up getting into a long conversation with a man whom we will call Jamal. I left him the text. Please pray for him. I could tell that our conversation deeply touched him and we actually got to speak for quite some time. We touched on some of the most difficult topics: the Trinity, the crucifixion, the Sonship of Jesus, and tahriif. We even got to speak of other less common topics: the Holy Spirit, why are there four Gospels, and the lack of family values in the West--a major concern of his.

That the Spirit would call him to everlasting life
That the words of Holy Scripture would touch his heart and mind and soul
That the beauty of the way of the Lord would convict him
That he would enter the Kingdom of God

Friday, May 23, 2008

Calvinism and Islam

From HERE:

Dr. Samuel M. Zwemer, who in a very real sense can be referred to as "the apostle to the Mohammedan world," calls attention to the strange parallel between the Reformation in Europe under Calvin and that in Arabia under Mohammed. Says he: "Islam is indeed in many respects the Calvinism of the Orient. It, too, was a call to acknowledge the sovereignty of God's will. 'There is no god but God.' It, too, saw in nature and sought in revelation the majesty of God's presence and power, and manifestations of His glory, transcendent and omnipotent. 'God,' says Mohammed, 'there is no god but He, the living, the self-subsistent, slumber seizeth Him not, nor sleep—His throne embraceth the heavens and the earth and none can intercede with Him save by His permission. He alone is exalted and great' . . . . It is this vital theistic principle that explains the victory of Islam over the weak divided and idolatrous Christendom of the Orient in the sixth century. . . . The Message of Mohammed, when he first unfurled the green banner, 'There is no god but God; God is king, and you must and shall obey His will,' was one of the simplest accounts ever offered of the nature of God and His relation to man. . . . This was Islam, as it was offered at the sword's point to people who had lost the power of understanding any other argument."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

'Proverbs 31 husband' justifies beer habit

From HERE:

MINOT, N.D. — Jack Crocker, a beer-loving machinist and "part-time Christian," finally agreed to read Proverbs with wife Reanna. He's glad he did.
"I'm a Proverbs 31 husband all right," says Jack, then quotes Proverbs 31:6-7: "Give beer to those who are perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more."
"That's my permission to crack open a cold one," Jack says, having a Coors after dinner.
But Reanna, a new church member, is pushing Jack hard to stop drinking. She insists he is neither "perishing" nor "in anguish." But Jack researched the Bible on the Internet and found 2 Corinthians 4:16 and 5:2 which say, "Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day," and "Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling."
"Everyone is perishing and in anguish," Jack says. "Until we're delivered from these bodies, the Bible says to drink up."
As part of the escalating family tension he created a "Proverbs 31" category on their weekly budget and listed "beer" under it. He also wants to start a Proverbs 31 Men's Group with his buddies.
"We're trying to find where the Bible talks about buffalo wings," he says. •

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Two points for Truth

Well, these two stories may seem to be totally unrelated, but they are.

First, Texas billionaire T Boons Pickens is spending millions of $$$ on what may end up being the largest wind plant in the world. Why is that good for one point for Truth? Because of wha it DOES NOT do, namely shovel money into the coffers of such pacifist countries as Saudi Arabia and Iran. And here's what he says about wind power:

It will be located in [the] central part of the United States, which will be the best from a safety standpoint to be located. You have a wind corridor that goes from Pampa, Texas, to the Canadian border. And it has -- the wind, it's unbelievable that we have not done more with wind. Look at Germany and Spain. They have developed their wind way beyond what we have, and they don't have as much wind as we do. It's not unlike the French have done with their nuclear. They're 80 percent power generated off of nuclear, we're 20 percent.

Second, Andrew Bostom's new book has come out to some very positive reviews. It is called The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism. Here is a section of one review:

...this amazingly prolific writer has completed [a] collection of sources, Islamic and others, which testify to the long and sorry history of anti-Semitism in Islam. This too had never been undertaken before on such a scale, mainly due to the constrictions of political correctness that posited that Islam, unlike Christianity, had not entertained a systematic persecution of the Jews.

This apologetic for Islam has now been shattered by Andrew Bostom, who painstakingly but thoughtfully collected and collated this documentation that would have been a stunning and innovative undertaking for any scholar of Islam to pursue, let alone for a professional in medicine whose research on Islam has been merely a secondary career.

Two points for truth.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Jerusalem Patriarch of the Orthodox Church

Much of the Middle East falls under the territory of this Patriarchate. (N. Africa is all under the Patriarch of Alexandria.) But interestingly enough the Patriarch and the bishops are all Greek, even today. Atallah Mansour in his "Narrow Gate Churches" ascribes the rather severe numerical decline of Orthodoxy in the Holy Land to the fact of Greek hegemony. The word Roum in the following paragraph means Greek as in the Byzantine Empire which was still the Holy Roman Empire, it does not mean Roman as in Latin or Italian. Roman Catholics here are called Latin Christians. Greek Catholics (Melkites) are simply called Catholic. Eastern Orthodox are called Orthodox or Roum:

Even in Arabic, most publications call that church Roum-Orthodox despite the fact that over 99% of their church members in the Holy Land call themselves Arab, speak Arabic as a mother tongue and fail to understand their church leaders rituals in the Greek language. The Greek clergy insist the church is Greek and the church's assets belong to Greek nationals--thus they refuse to appoint Arabs to membership in the Holy Sepulchre Fraternity since this might force them to share with Arab natives the church's material assets. Many faithful Orthodox Christians voted against the Greek clergy's hegemony with their feet by joining other churches.

Narrow Gate Churches by Atallah Mansour
p. 204-05

While I have a great deal of respect for Orthodoxy from a theological point the pastoral care (if one can call it that) that they provide for their flock is truly disastrous. It is hard, given these circumstances, for me to feel sorry for the Orthodox even though they are historically the original church through much of the region.

And since we're on the topic, here is an example of Orthodox chant in Arabic:

Friday, May 16, 2008

Good Dhimmi, President Bush

So I don't comment much on politics, but if you read these remarks you see that the US President knows absolutely nothing about Islam:

"This struggle is waged with the technology of the 21st century, but at its core it is the ancient battle between good and evil," Mr. Bush said Thursday in his official speech at the Knesset, Israel's parliament. "The killers claim the mantle of Islam, but they are not religious men," he said. "No one who prays to the God of Abraham could strap a suicide vest to an innocent child, or blow up guiltless guests at a Passover Seder, or fly planes into office buildings filled with unsuspecting workers."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Erik Twist: more than empty ritual

From HERE:

Ritual, we must say, is written into the fabric of human nature. All civilizations exhibit it. It is only in our recent western modernity that we have tried to deny both its necessity and our own inability to shake off its bonds. The anti-liturgical movement with its so-called emphasis on relevance and authenticity (forsaking anything that hints of traditionalism) claims to offer worship "experiences" that lend the worshiper a freedom and space to approach God in a manner that is both comfortable and honest.

What is telling is that for your average "seeker-friendly" service this always follows a strict pattern: sub-culturally relevant music (this differs according to the demographic trying to be reached), a laid-back attitude manifested in catchy introductions, extemporaneous prayers that usually follow the same pattern, and a long, passionately delivered talk. The best of these offerings is done in large auditoriums where no natural light is allowed in so that the "mood" of the space can be changed to fit the events of the service. Everything is thought through. Everything is geared toward evoking a desired feeling. Most of it is repeated week after week. [...]

Monday, May 12, 2008

Syria and the Christians there

On the whole, Christians feel relatively safe in Syria, but far from being free and equal. Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim worries about the future of Christians in Lebanon and Syria because of the escalating waves of emigrations, yet he still is confident there will always be a Christian presence in this Holy Land country, finding it "inconceivable that Christians will live in all lands except that in which their Lord and Savior chose to live." He estimates a total population of 2.2 million Christians of which a million are Orthodox. The Syrian government, following its secular principles, refuses to ask citizens about their religious affiliation.

Atallah Mansour
Narrow Gate Churches p. 156, 7
Hope Publishing

Abu Daoud says: it is precisely because the government is run by the Ba'th party (which was founded by a Christian) that Christians feel safe. It is precisely because there is no Syrian democracy that the government is secular (well, more than others in the region). Democracy, as one Syrian Christian told me, would be a disaster for the Christians there.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Maronite Church; gunbattles break out in Beirut

After massacres of Christians by Druze and Muslims under the Ottoman Empire, and then massive foreign pressure from Europe (back when they still actually liked Christians) Greater Lebanon was established as a special region to ensure the security of Christians (mostly Maronites). But as time has passed the Muslim population has grown and the Christian population has (relatively) shrunk. There was a bloody and lengthy civil war from 1975-90 between the Christians and the Sunnis.

Not it looks like war has started between the Sunnis and the Shias. My understanding is that the Christian community has supporters for both sides, though I don't see why anyone would support Nasrallah and Hizbullah, but this is a strange part of the world.

The Maronite Church is quite interesting in itself. In full communion with Rome, it is not a Uniate church. Rather it dates back to very early (5th C.?) and became cut off from the outside world as Christians moved to mountainous, protected regions to defend themselves from Muslims and Druze. When contact was reestablished with Roman Catholic clergy it was found that no schism had separated the two churches, but rather that they had simply lost touch with each other. (The graphic above should give you an idea of what I'm talking about.)

But here is the most recent bad news from CNN:

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- Gunfire broke out in downtown Beirut on Thursday after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said recent government actions amount to "a declaration of open war."

There are reports of open street battles in at least one neighborhood. Video showed people throwing stones at each other, as Lebanese soldiers used tear gas to disperse the crowds.

The violence is limited to Beirut's Shiite and Sunni neighborhoods and has continued into the evening hours.

Shortly after Nasrallah's speech, CNN's Cal Perry reported from Sodeco Square in downtown Beirut during an intense gun battle.

"Just in the past few minutes ... things have gotten a lot worse," he said, taking cover with the Lebanese army. He said government forces have not reacted to the violence.

The Lebanese army, which is charged with trying to keep peace in the capital, is in a precarious position, Perry explained.

"When you're talking about this much gunfire, when you're talking about [rocket-propelled grenades] fire, it's absolutely ludicrous to think that the army will put themselves between these two factions," he said.

Video of the scene showed empty streets and shuttered stores. There were no reports of violence in Beirut's Christian neighborhoods. Witnesses and journalists described a long line of cars on the main road leading out of Beirut after the violence broke out.

In his televised speech, Nasrallah offered harsh words for the government, blaming it for declaring war by banning Hezbollah's telecommunications system.

"We believe the war has started, and we believe that we have the right to defend ourselves," the Hezbollah leader said. "We will cut the hand that will reach out to the weapons of the resistance, no matter if it comes from the inside or the outside." [...]

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

EN §47: Sacrament and evangelization

I was mildly critical of Paul VI in my last post for passing up a chance to advocate the catholic obligation for all Christians to evangelize, but here in §47 we find a great insight. It is this kind of passage that sets EN apart from run of the mill evangelical discourse, while also making it (EN) too urgent and passionate to simply discard as yet another document from the Vatican.

Paul VI here touches on the the union of sacrament and word in evangelism. One rather strong phrase is here:

In a certain sense it is a mistake to make a contrast between evangelization and sacramentalization, as is sometimes done.

This insight has actually been close to the heart of my personal approach to mission to Muslims and I have written an article on the topic which should be published online some time soon (will let you know) over at the most excellent St Francis Magazine.

But this insight is especially true for Muslims because Islam is a very ritually-oriented civilizational structure (notice that I don't call it a religion). Five times a day the Muslim must go through a highly ritualistic form of prayer (and I don't use the word ritualistic in a pejorative way). Five times a day! Overall Muslims have maintained a much higher degree in actual observance of (at least) the outward obligations of their rites than have Christians. Even non-devout Muslims will generally keep at least a partial fast during Ramadan, for example.

To take a Muslim out of the soteriological metanerrative of Islam without then giving him or her rites and rituals to replace that which has been discarded is a recipe for failure--both for the evangelizer and the evangelized. This is the case with Muslims more so than with secular Western folks. To evangelize without sacramentalizing is to offer an incomplete entry into the Kingdom of God and the Christian metanarrative.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

First Printing Press in the Middle East

Lebanese Maronites had maintained friendly relations with Rome and the rest of Europe since the Crusades. Maronite clerics went to Europe to study in Catholic institutions and a special Maronite school was established in Rome in the 16th century. In 1610 graduates of this school in Rome established the first printing press in the Middle East--at the Maronite monastery of Dair Quzhayya. Soon the region's first books were printed--religious and literary--helping to usher in the cultural revolution.

Atallah Mansour
The Narrow Gate Churches, p. 85
Pasadena: Hope Publishing, 2004

The first Muslim printing press? In Turkey in 1727, 121 years later.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Deeper Relevance: why are some evangelicals attracted to liturgy?

[Traditional liturgy] doesn't sound relevant.

Yet many evangelicals are attracted to liturgical worship, and as one of those evangelicals, I'd like to explain what the attraction is for me, and perhaps for many others. A closer look suggests that something more profound and paradoxical is going on in liturgy than the search for contemporary relevance. "The liturgy begins … as a real separation from the world," writes Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann. He continues by saying that in the attempt to "make Christianity understandable to this mythical 'modern' man on the street," we have forgotten this necessary separation.

It is precisely the point of the liturgy to take people out of their worlds and usher them into a strange, new world—to show them that, despite appearances, the last thing in the world they need is more of the world out of which they've come. The world the liturgy reveals does not seem relevant at first glance, but it turns out that the world it reveals is more real than the one we inhabit day by day.[...]

From HERE. I loved this because as someone from a Bible Church background the Anglican liturgy came to me as a wonderful treasure. Here is one more paragraph I found quite touching:

This is one reason I thank God for the liturgy. The liturgy does not target any age or cultural subgroup. It does not even target this century. (It does not imagine, as we moderns and postmoderns are tempted to do, that this is the best of all possible ages, the most significant era of history.) Instead, the liturgy draws us into worship that transcends our time and place. Its earliest forms took shape in ancient Israel, and its subsequent development occurred in a variety of cultures and subcultures—Greco-Roman, North African, German, Frankish, Anglo-Saxon, and so on. It has been prayed meaningfully by bakers, housewives, tailors, teachers, philosophers, priests, monks, kings, and slaves. As such, it has not been shaped to meet a particular group's needs. It seeks only to enable people—people in general—to see God.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

France's jails full of Muslims

...This prison is majority Muslim -- as is virtually every house of incarceration in France. About 60 to 70 percent of all inmates in the country's prison system are Muslim, according to Muslim leaders, sociologists and researchers, though Muslims make up only about 12 percent of the country's population.

From HERE.