Thursday, July 31, 2008

Obama, the Messiah

Sometimes American politics is just ridiculous, but when you get others involved (Europeans) it just gets even more fun :-)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Williams on the Trinity; religious dialogue with Islam

Rowan Williams responded to the Common Word letter from several dozen Muslim scholars, and there is a very nice section in his response about the Trinity, which follows:

Because God exists in this threefold pattern of interdependent action, the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one in which there is always a ‘giving place’ to each other, each standing back so that the other may act. The only human language we have for this is love: the three dimensions of divine life relate to each other in self-sacrifice or self-giving. The doctrine of the Trinity is a way of explaining why we say that God is love, not only that he shows love.

That having been said, need I mention that inter-religious dialogue only happens in places where Muslims are a minority? Islam, in the end I suspect, has no use for such dialogue.

I have written about this topic in Islam and the Other Religions.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Anglicans trying to pull their stuff together

Looks like the Anglican bishops at Lambeth in Kent are actually about to employ some form or discipline! Discipline! What? How un-Anglican. Yet it is of the essence of the church, the power to loose and to bind, to forgive and retain sins, and to bring the sinning brother "before the whole ekklesia." But will it work? I'm not incredibly positive, but it seems like the Americans and Canadians are finally realizing that a) they have really pissed off everyone, and b) that while they have money and lots of bishops, they represent a very small section of the Anglican Communion.

You can read HERE for more on the specific plan.

LAMBETH: Windsor Group Announces Forum to Deal with Rebels

The Windsor Continuation Group today announced that it has proposed an Anglican Communion Pastoral Forum "to act in the Anglican Communion in a rapid manner to emerging threats to its life." The first problem facing the Forum would be the role of homosexuality in the church, and second would be the problem of Anglicans opposed to homosexual ordinations and blessings and thirdly those who have crossed provincial borders to find fellowship.

At a press conference to release a new Windsor Group paper on the next steps for the Windsor Process, Bishop Clive Handford, the Group chairman, said that the members of the proposed Forum ought to recognize the "breadth of the communion," and they are to be appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. "This could well be a body ... that could respond quickly where there's a pressure point in the communion," said Handford.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The stuff I've writtenكل ما كتب ابو داود

Every now and then one of my eight readers asks if I have a place that has all my own writings together in one place. Rather than sending them all over the place, I have started the blog Abu Daoud which only has the relatively few articles I have written myself. You can check it out at:

Abu Daoud

If you only want to read the stuff I write, then use that one for your RSS feed or account. If you read THIS blog regularly, then just ignore the other one.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Americans and Delayed Gratification (AKA discipline)

Well, this blog is happy to point to deficiencies in every culture, because the Kingdom of God is not any one culture, nor is it something apart from culture, but it is something divine that seeks to redeem and transform culture. That having been said here is some interesting stuff about Americans and their loss to delay gratification:

The remarkable thing about the study is that a student's ability at age four to defer gratification is correlated with better outcomes much later in life, such as academic and social competence. For example, one follow-up paper found a statistically significant relationship between how long a student waited to ring the bell and -- more than a decade later -- their "ability to cope with frustration and stress in adolescence."

New York Times columnist David Brooks has cited this study and inferred that most social problems are rooted in an inability to defer gratification. He argues that for people with poor self-control "life is a parade of foolish decisions: teen pregnancy, drugs, gambling, truancy and crime." I agree. I can find no other compelling explanation for why someone would do something as utterly ridiculous as dropping out of high school, no matter how bad the school is.

But I'll see David Brooks and raise him one. I find myself asking an even bigger question: Is America as a nation losing its ability to wait for the second marshmallow? By that, I mean can we still muster the political will and personal sacrifice to make investments today that will make us richer and stronger 10, 20, or 50 years from now?

From HERE.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Good-looking bishop; Christianity and grace and beauty

I saw this picture over at Canterbury Tales and just thought it was great. The vestments are really beautiful. And that is something that has to do with Christianity and Islam. If Christianity is truer then it has to be more beautiful. Also, kudos to Benedict for staying in good shape.

Christianity without beauty is like Christianity without grace.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Islam, Deism, and Despotism

The New Jerusalem
GK Chesterton
Ch. XII: The Fall of Chivalry

It was exactly because it seemed self-evident, to Moslems as
to Bolshevists, that their simple creed was suited to everybody,
that they wished in that particular sweeping fashion to impose it
on everybody. It was because Islam was broad that Moslems were narrow.
And because it was not a hard religion it was a heavy rule.
Because it was without a self-correcting complexity, it allowed
of those simple and masculine but mostly rather dangerous
appetites that show themselves in a chieftain or a lord.
As it had the simplest sort of religion, monotheism, so it had
the simplest sort of government, monarchy. There was exactly
the same direct spirit in its despotism as in its deism.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mission to Jerusalem: America a society in decay

Harry at Mission to Jerusalem has posted a good summary of youth in Palestine at his blog. Here is my favorite part. I think he gets it right, and I think Palestinians get it right when they look at Western culture:

...The plight of young people here can tear at your heart. Like young people everywhere, they're full of energy and hope. Like everywhere, the young men are riding the wave of the testosterone surge, spending alot of time and energy on their hair, clothes, and being tough and cool. The young women are learning to be poised and counting on a good marriage and children.

Everything here is about the family. There is simply no comprehension of a place, like the US, where so many people choose to be unmarried and choose not to have children. People here see this as a sign of the decay of the society. [...]

Friday, July 18, 2008

Jordan: What human rights?

From CT:

A Jordanian Islamic court has annulled the marriage of Mohammad Abbad, a Muslim convert to Christianity. The North Amman Shari'ah Court said in a May 22 document that "marriage depends on the creed [religion], and the apostate has no creed." Though Jordan's penal code does not outlaw apostasy, and its constitution guarantees freedom of religion, the country maintains Islam, which forbids conversion to other faiths, as its official religion. Abbad, 40, fled the country in March with his wife and two young children, after being assaulted in his home by acquaintances who demanded custody of his children.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

John of Damascus on the word 'Saracen'

Thanks to a reader for calling me on my too-quick use of slave for a word which technically means destitue or empty-handed. A slave is owned by another and owns nothing of her own, making her destitute and empty handed. In any case, here is the full quote from John of Damascus, Fount of Knowledge:

There is also the superstition of the Ishmaelites which to this day prevails and keeps people in error, being a forerunner of the Antichrist. They are descended from Ishmael, [who] was born to Abraham of Agar, and for this reason they are called both Agarenes and Ishmaelites. They are also called Saracens, which is derived from Sarras kenoi, or destitute of Sara, because of what Agar said to the angel: ‘Sara hath sent me away destitute.’ [99] These used to be idolaters and worshiped the morning star and Aphrodite, whom in their own language they called Khabár, which means great. [100] And so down to the time of Heraclius they were very great idolaters. From that time to the present a false prophet named Mohammed has appeared in their midst. This man, after having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, [101] devised his own heresy. Then, having insinuated himself into the good graces of the people by a show of seeming piety, he gave out that a certain book had been sent down to him from heaven. He had set down some ridiculous compositions in this book of his and he gave it to them as an object of veneration.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Did the prophets sin in the Quran?

Muslims often point out that the OT is corrupted because it has the prophets sinning, and everyone knows that prophets become immune to sin when they are called by Allah (isn't that cool?)

But that does not match up with the testimony of the Quran at all. From an e-mail I just wrote:

The Quran indeed shows that all the prophets have sinned except for Jesus. A few examples, Surah 2:30 shows that the angels knew Adam and humanity in general would "spread mischief." Adam is also spoken of in 20:115 saying he "had no firm resolve." 11:46, 47 says that Noah had to repent also. 7:151 has Moses repenting.

Finally, Q 47:19 has Allah telling Muhammad to repent for his sin. The Arabic is singular: You, Muhammad, repent for your OWN sins; it can NOT mean that he needs to somehow repent for his people's sins. The Arabic grammar does not permit it.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Chesterton's apologia for the First Crusade

From Ch. 11 of The New Jerusalem:

The Crusader would have been quite justified in suspecting the Moslem even if the Moslem had merely been a new stranger; but as a matter of history he was already an old enemy. The critic of the Crusade talks as if it had sought out some inoffensive tribe or temple in the interior of Thibet, which was never discovered until it was invaded.

They seem entirely to forget that long before the Crusaders had dreamed of riding to Jerusalem, the Moslems had almost ridden into Paris.
They seem to forget that if the Crusaders nearly conquered Palestine, it was but a return upon the Moslems who had nearly conquered Europe.
There was no need for them to argue by an appeal to reason, as I have argued above, that a religious division must make a difference; it had already made a difference. The difference stared them in the face in the startling transformation of Roman Barbary and of Roman Spain. In short it was something which must happen in theory and which did happen in practice; all expectation suggested that it would be so and all experience said it was so.

Having thought it out theoretically and experienced it practically, they proceeded to deal with it equally practically. The first division involved every principle of the science of thought; and the last
developments followed out every principle of the science of war. The Crusade was the counter-attack. It was the defensive army taking the offensive in its turn, and driving back the enemy to his base.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Principle of Sacramentality

The notion that all reality, both animate and inanimate, is potentially or in fact the bearer of God’s presence and the instrument of God’s saving activity on humanity’s behalf.

This principle is rooted in the nature of a sacrament as such, i.e., a visible sign and instrument of the invisible presence and activity of God.

Together with the principles of mediation (God works through secondary agents to achieve divine ends) and communion (the end of all God’s activity is the union of humanity), the principle of sacramentality constitutes one of the central theological characteristics of Catholicism.

Source: McBrien, Richard P., ed. The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995), p. 1148.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why local churches don't accept Muslim believers

People are surprised when I tell them that most local churches (including many evangelical ones) don't accept Muslim-background believers (MBB's) into their fellowships. A nice list is provided in Carol Walker's essay on women in the Muslim mission field, which is a good read in itself:

Local Church response to a convert from Islam is often one of non-acceptance. This may be due to

* Jealousy (eg., poor or needy church members looking to mission workers for attention or money.)
* Fear. This may be of the newcomer, with the fear that they are infiltrating in order to find grounds to betray and bring some kind of action against the church. In this case the newcomer would find himself or herself mistrusted and unwelcome. Alternatively, the fear may be that family members of the newcomer, or perhaps the security services or some other group, will blame the church for the individual's conversion and take some kind of violent action against it.
* Suspicion. They've been cheated before; there have been conmen who have claimed to be needy converts but who were later discovered to be wilily members of Christian families.
* The presence of someone different may simply threaten the status quo
* It is un-cultural to change faith communities and leave the patterns of the family home; someone who does so can even be seen by members of the Christian community to be violating a deep rooted belief about what is right practice, and to be breaking the order that God has made. Much pervading thought accepts the idea that God ordained people to their particular religious communities and that is how things should be left.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Albion of Anglican Continuum interviews Abu Daoud

Abu Daoud was recently interviewed by Albion Land, of the very popular blog, Anglican Continuum.

Read it all.

Albion interviews Abu Daoud

His first question: why Muslims?

Most are wicked...but some are righteous...but

I wanted to post a few consecutive verses from the Quran so you can appreciate just how ambiguous the book is when it comes to Ahl al Kitaab (Jews and Christians). Here in a few short verses we see what almost amounts to an argument of a person against himself, trying to figure out what he really thinks about Ahl al Kitaab. Incidentally, verse 115 seems to clearly show that Jews and Christians can enter paradise, which goes against the predominant Islamic orthodoxy.

The Best Community

[3:110] You are the best community ever raised among the people: you advocate righteousness and forbid evil, and you believe in GOD. If the followers of the scripture believed, it would be better for them. Some of them do believe, but the majority of them are wicked.

[3:111] They can never harm you, beyond insulting you. If they fight you, they will turn around and flee. They can never win.

[3:112] They shall be humiliated whenever you encounter them, unless they uphold GOD's covenant, as well as their peace covenants with you. They have incurred wrath from GOD, and, consequently, they are committed to disgrace. This is because they rejected GOD's revelations, and killed the prophets unjustly. This is because they disobeyed and transgressed.

Righteous Jews & Christians

[3:113] They are not all the same; among the followers of the scripture, there are those who are righteous. They recite GOD's revelations through the night, and they fall prostrate.

[3:114] They believe in GOD and the Last Day, they advocate righteousness and forbid evil, and they hasten to do righteous works. These are the righteous.

[3:115] Any good they do will not go unrewarded. GOD is fully aware of the righteous.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Chesterton: Jerusalem, a small town of big things

Jerusalem is a small town of big things; and the average modern city is a big town full of small things. All the most important and interesting powers in history are here gathered within the area
of a quiet village; and if they are not always friends, at least they are necessarily neighbours.

--GK Chesterton
The New Jerusalem
Ch. VI

Friday, July 04, 2008

What am I reading? And: a New Jordan blog.


What am I reading?

Still slugging along with the Purgatorial and penitential A History of Islamic Legal Theories by Wael B. Halleq. By far the most technical work I have ever read on the shari'a. I let it sit for a while on the book shelf while I tackled the superfluous Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which curiously contains several references to the Bible, including quotations of Biblical verses.

In addition to my regular plundering of the pages of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research and International Journal of Frontier Missions, I also rushed through the unique and practical Planting Churches in Muslim Cities by the inscrutable Greg Livingstone.

In terms of hard core theology recently finished The Promise of Trinitarian Theology by Gunton which was a joyful exploration of and vindication the Cappadocian school over against Augustine. I liked it, but if you can deal with it, Beauty of the Infinite is better, though it is more technical and not as clearly written.

Currently have gone back to some important history: the break up of the Ottoman Empire during and after WWI. Very readable and highly recommended: A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin.

New Blog

For those of you interested in Jordan there is a new blog: Observations of a Jordanian

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Chesterton on Eastern Christianity in Jerusalem

I really liked Chesterton's remarks here, they are rather damning of European Christianity. After this quote he goes on to say, basically, that Western Christians would have long ago converted to Islam, and that the superstitions of the Eastern Christians (Greek Orthodox, Copts, Armenians, etc.) are in many ways what sustained them:

Save for a few years after the time of Constantine and a few years after
the First Crusade, they have been practically persecuted all the time.
At least they have been under heathen masters whose attitude towards
Christendom was hatred and whose type of government was despotism.
No man living in the West can form the faintest conception
of what it must have been to live in the very heart of the East
through the long and seemingly everlasting epoch of Moslem power.
A man in Jerusalem was in the centre of the Turkish Empire as a man
in Rome was in the centre of the Roman Empire. The imperial power
of Islam stretched away to the sunrise and the sunset; westward to
the mountains of Spain and eastward towards the wall of China.
It must have seemed as if the whole earth belonged to Mahomet to those
who in this rocky city renewed their hopeless witness to Christ.
What we have to ask ourselves is not whether we happen in
all respects to agree with them, but whether we in the same
condition should even have the courage to agree with ourselves.

G.K. Chesterton
The New Jerusalem (1920)
Chapter 4

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Chesterton's New Jerusalem: Islam where "the ruins remain ruins"

Here Chesterton compares the Christian devotion to preserving non-Christian heritage with his perception of the Islamic practice. The Omar mentioned is the Caliph under whose command Jerusalem was sieged and conquered in 638:

The wild men that rode behind Omar the Arab would
have thought nothing of tearing every page of Plato in pieces.
For it is the nature of all this outer nomadic anarchy that it is
capable sooner or later of tearing anything and everything in pieces;
it has no instinct of preservation or of the permanent needs of men.
Where it has passed the ruins remain ruins and are not renewed;
where it has been resisted and rolled back, the links of our long
history are never lost. As I went forward the vision of our
own civilisation, in the form in which it finally found unity,
grew clearer and clearer; nor did I ever know it more certainly
than when I had left it behind.

G. K. Chesterton
The New Jerusalem, 1920
Ch. 1