Friday, October 31, 2008

Doing theology today

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, the Virgin Mary needed a savior

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

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

From, of course, Wikipedia.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sleepless in Tehran

From the ineffable Thomas L. Friedman:

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

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


From HERE.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Allam to BXVI: Islam is not inherently good

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

France: it's the new Lebanon

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

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

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

Muslim Youth Bulge meets Fertility Collapse in Europe

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

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

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

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Orthodox website for Muslims

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

The Awakening


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

Grammar of the Quran

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

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

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

pp. 48, 49
London 1985

Malmo, Sweden?

Ran across this quote:

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

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

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

Saturday, October 25, 2008

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Part XIX: Islam is a Civilization, not a Religion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sterling Hayden on Life, the Voyage, and Financial Unrest

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

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

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

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

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

--Sterling Hayden

Monday, October 20, 2008

Salafi Islam growing throughout MENA and the world

From the AP:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Olympic Mosque in London and concerns over terror

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


From HERE.

Friday, October 17, 2008

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Has the pope been reading Islam and Christianity?

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

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

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

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

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

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


From HERE.

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What is culture?

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

WSJ: Short term missions...Vacationaries?

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 13, 2008

Drawings from the Holy Land


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


The Churches of Saudi Arabia

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

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

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

Rumors of War: Israel and Iran

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Quote from Ramon Llull (Raymund Lully)

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

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


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

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

Baptism for Muslims: Syncretism or heterodox practice?

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

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

Baptism brings together Muslims and Christians in Drenka celebrations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Unrest in Acre between Arabs and Jews

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

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

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

Balkan and Bulgerian Islam and syncretism

Balkan Islam is in many instances a form of Pagan-Christian-Islamic syncretism. Here are some of the more interesting practices:

Baptism by Anatolian Muslims, and later by their Balkan counterparts, was performed not to satisfy any sacramental necessity, but from the popular folk belief that immersion in Christian holy water would armed infants against disease and protected them from mental illness. [...]

The Pomacks of Bulgaria practised a particularly lovely and egregious form of syncretistic Islam where many, if not all, of the old Bulgaro-Christian patterns that had developed for a millenium continued to be practised without anyone missing a step. [...] They believed that taking Easter eggs from Christians assured one of good health and they believed that bringing sick children to church on Good Friday would gaurantee a cure. They sought out the blessings of priests on feast days, and they took holy water from the same priests for the benefit of family members and even livestock. The Pomacks also continued to make offerings to Orthodox Church icons; they even covertly kept church books and icons in their homes. [...] they continued the old Slavic custom of animal sacrifice and families often remembered the day of their patron saints and continued to celebrate them privately...


Religious Syncretism by Eric Maroney, p. 63
London: SCM Press, 2006

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Syncretism and the Marranos of Iberia

I have been doing some reading on syncretism lately, that is, the combining of two religions such that the result is not identifiable as either of the two original religions. The reason I'm looking at this is because presently in the area of missiology in the Muslim world there is an understandable desire to avoid syncretism while being as conextualized and inculturated as possible.

Marranism is an almost extinct religion today, but grew out of the crypto-Judaism present in the Iberian peninsula after the completion of the Reconquista (1492). It is thus a mixture of Judaism and Catholicism, but is neither of the two. Here is an interesting quote from the book I'm reading on the topic:

[S]eemingly irreconcilable elements can always be reconciled by someone, somewhere. Dissimilar parents can raise a child they never anticipated. And something that is impure is often pure in someone else's eyes.

Religious Syncretism by Eric Maroney, p. 41
London: SCM Press, 2006

The Catholic Church and frontier mission today

I guess you could count this as part II of a continuing conversation, after my rather short post a few days ago on Raymund Lully, and the loss of missionary zeal in the Catholic Church today. I specifically was quite careful in choosing my words, and here is what I said:

There were great examples here and there to the contrary, but placing frontier mission and world mission at the center of the Church's life never took root in Catholicism. (Yes, I'm gonna say that, and it makes me sad.)


But Rob answered my post thusly:

I don't buy this "RC's don't mission", Abu Daoud. We were almost everywhere long before anyone else. We got kicked out of Japan before most people knew where it was. If our growth has slowed, forgive us as we organize a billion people.


Of course this is not what I said, that RC's don't do mission. I said that today they don't do frontier mission, and that frontier mission, when it was successful was never really owned by the people historically, but by this or that religious order. Orders are very important to the life of the Catholic Church and I know this well, having studied for years theology with one of them. But if they are the center of the Church's mission to the frontier (definition forthcoming), then it is a losing strategy, as most religious orders cannot even supply enough priests to keep their institutions in the West functioning within a recognizably Catholic framework.

Rob mentions that his neighbors are not Christians, does he live on the frontier of missions? The simple answer is no. Mongolia, which he mentions may indeed be frontier mission though. Much of sub-Saharan Africa is no longer the mission frontier. Almost all of N. Africa is. How many new churches and converts have been baptized into the Catholic Church in North Africa? None that I know of. How many have become part of evangelically oriented home churches? Probably several thousand, maybe more than 10k.

But here is the definition for frontier missions:

Frontier Missions is a Christian missiological term referring to the pioneering of the gospel among ethno-cultural and ethno-linguistic population segments where there is no indigenous church. The phrase was originally used with reference to Catholic, and later Protestant, mission stations in the Western United States. In the 1960s missiologists began to re-employ the term to distinguish between two kinds of missionary work: that which was being done among peoples where the indigenous church was already established, and new efforts among peoples where the Christian Church was very weak or non-existent. The contemporary usage of the term is part of a general trend to look at the missionary task more in terms of social, cultural and linguistic isolation from the gospel, rather than strictly geographic isolation.

My original point still stands. This sort of mission was never and is not owned by the core of the Catholic Church, notwithstanding notable exceptions here and there and the zealous former work of certain religious orders. It was the idea of Blessed Raymund Lully that it should be the heart beat of the Catholic Church and he lived out this vision powerfully.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Pope begins Bible-reading marathon

From CNN:

ROME, Italy (AP) -- Pope Benedict XVI's "In the beginning" started off a weeklong Bible-reading marathon on Italian television Sunday.

RAI state TV began its program called "The Bible Day and Night," with Benedict reciting the first chapter of the book of Genesis -- the holy text's opening verses about the creation of the world.

The marathon will feature more than 1,200 people reading the Old and New Testament in over seven days and six nights. [...]

"The word of God will enter the homes and accompany the lives of families and individual people," Benedict said of the program following his traditional noontime blessing on Sunday. "If welcomed, this seed will not fail to bring abundant fruits."


What I wouldn't give to hear an Episcopal bishop say something like that! OK, ok, so some of them do, but most of them, well...

And may I also mention that simple interaction with the Bible is one of the main things that draws Muslims to Christ? Yes, and I do mean just reading or hearing it, aside from any preaching or explanations.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Review this blog...

There is a website here where you can review this blog and let people know how much you like it (or how much you dislike it, I mean, if you really do dislike it...)

Also, Fr Greg has an interesting post on Substitution and Expiation. How soteriological of him!

World Mission and Ramon Llull (aka Raymond Lully)

In case you didn't know one of my great heroes of all times is Raymund Lully, and I have a nice quote about him from one of the many old history books I am reading these days that was dug up from the underbelly of my college's library. The author, speaking of Lull says:

The mission to the non-Christian world, he believed, should be the first concern of the Church, claiming its most capable men and a worthy portion of its property. He advocated missions not only to North Africa but to the east, not only to the Muslims but to the Mongols. He knew the Muslims best, however, and said of them, “Once they were converted, it would be light thing to convert the rest of the world." […] Lull’s idea that the whole church should take up this task came to nought. It continued to be the concern of only a few, chiefly from these two Orders [Franciscans and Dominicans], who were scattered over North Africa and, as occasion offered, in Palestine and Syria. Some did go on to the land of the Mongols.

Beginning From Jerusalem: Christian Expansion through Seventeen Centuries
John Foster, London, 1956, pp. 59, 60

Lull's focus on world mission and frontier mission being central to church life would have to wait for the Reformation and then the birth of evangelicalism, but ultimately in the early 19th Century it gained a very significant following among certain Western evangelical and (later) charismatic churches. There were great examples here and there to the contrary, but placing frontier mission and world mission at the center of the Church's life never took root in Catholicism. (Yes, I'm gonna say that, and it makes me sad.)

High Priests and the early church

One hears from time to time how after Constantine everything went down hill and the leaders of the church came to be equated with priests who, as in the Old Covenant, offered sacrifices on behalf of the people and were, in some way, the mediators of God's grace. It is true that this understanding of the priesthood increased in the Western church, especially in the medieval period. But like it or not we find in as early a document as the Didache, on which I have commented extensively, a clear indication that sacerdotal language for ministers is very early.

But like it or not, we find this brazen statement regarding the early church's prophets being not just priests, but high priests:

But every true prophet that wills to abide among you is worthy of his support. So also a true teacher is himself worthy, as the workman, of his support. Every first-fruit, therefore, of the products of wine-press and threshing-floor, of oxen and of sheep, you shall take and give to the prophets, for they are your high priests.

Didache 13

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bibliography for Islam and Christianity

Broadly speaking, of course, here is a bibliography I have been working on (and am working on) for some time. It is not narrowly tailored, so it has some works on completely Christian issues (sacramental and trinitarian theology) which, in my view, are important for understanding how Christianity relates to Islam and can answer Islam. And vice versa, so there are works on the Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) which do not at any length discuss Christian themes or ideas, but are nonetheless essential in grasping the otherness of Christianity when approached from the Islamic framework.

Bibliography for Islam and Christianity

by Abu Daoud

Abd al-Masiih. ‘ALLAH? The God of Islam and the God of Christianity?’ in St Francis Magazine Vol 2:4, March 2007.

Arab World Ministeries (AWM) ‘Contextualization of Ministry among Muslims: A Statement on the Appropriate Limits’ in St Francis Magazine Vol 3:1, June 2007.

Armstrong, Karen. 2002. Islam: A Short History. Modern Library Chronicles.

Arthur, J. Bryson. 2001. The Real Church: The GodMan Legacy. Nairobi: Uzima Press.

Bailey, Betty Jane; J. Martin Bailey. 2003. Who are the Christians in the Middle East? Grand Rapids; Cambridge, U.K.: Eerdmans.

Bettenson, Henry, ed. 1967. Documents of the Christian Church, Second Edition. London, Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

Caner, Emir Fethi and H. Edward Pruitt. 2006. The Costly Call, Book 2. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel.

Chauvet, Louis-Marie. 1995. Symbol and Sacrament: A Sacramental Reinterpretation of Christian Existence. Translated by Patrick Madigan, Madelaine Beaumont. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press.

Chesterton, G. K. 1920. The New Jerusalem. Pub UNK.

Coote, Robert T. ‘Finger on the Pulse: Fifty Years of Missionary Research’ in IBMR, Vol. 24:3.

Cragg, Kenneth. 1991. The Arab Christian: A History in the Middle East. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press.

_____. 2000. The Call of the Minaret, Third Edition. Oxford: One World Press.

Crombie, Kelvin. 2006. A Jewish Bishop in Jerusalem: The life story of Michael Solomon Alexander. Jerusalem: Nicolayson’s Ltd.

Dalrymple, William. 1998. From the Holy Mountain: A Journey among the Christians of the Middle East. London: Flamingo.

Donaldson, Stuart A. 1909. Church Life and Thought in North Africa A.D. 200. Cambridge: University Press.

Dutch, Bernard. ‘Should Muslims become “Christians”?’ in IJFM, Vol. 17:1, Spring 2000.

Evans, Edward. ‘Discipling and Training for Muslim background Believers, Part 1: A Growing Need’ in St Francis Magazine Vol 3:2 , Sep 2007.

Farah, Rafiq A. 2002. In Troubled Waters: A History of the Anglican Church in Jerusalem 1841-1998. Leicester, UK: Christians Aware.

Farah, Warrick. 2005. Mapping People Groups in Yemen for Informed Church Planting: A Research Project. Unpublished Manuscript.

Foster, John. 1956. Beginning From Jerusalem: Christian Expansion through Seventeen Centuries. London: United Society for Christian Literature.

Francisco, Adam S. ‘Luther, Lutheranism, and the Challenge of Islam’ in Concordia Theological Quarterly, Vol. 71:3/4, July/Oct 2007.

Fromkin, David. 1989. A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East. New York: Henry Holt & Co.

Garrison, David. ND. Church Planting Movements. Richmond, Virginia: International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

_____. 1990. The Nonresidential Missionary: A new strategy and the people it serves. Birmingham, Alabama: MARC & New Hope.

Goldsmith, Martin. ‘Immanuel—Imanu-Allah: The Name of the Creator Deity and the Name of God’ in St Francis Magazine Vol 3:3, Dec 2007.

Gray, John. 2003. Al Qaeda and what it means to be modern. Chatham, UK: Faber and Faber.

Gunton, Colin E. 1997. The Promise of Trinitarian Theology. London, New York: T&T Clark.

Gustafson, K. and Common Ground Consultants, Inc. 2007. An Insider View. Unk: Common Ground Consultants, Inc.

Hallaq, Wael B. 1997. A History of Islamic Legal Theories: An introduction to Sunni usul al-fiqh. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Harper, Susan Billington. ‘Ironies of Indigenization’ in IBMR Vol. 19:1,

Hart, David Bentley. 2004. The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth. Grand Rapids, Michigan; Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans.

Hogg, W. Richey. ‘Vatican II’s Ad Gentes: A Twenty-Year Retrospective’ in IBMR Vol. 9:4, Oct 1985.

Horner, Norman A. ‘Christianity in North Africa Today’ in Occassional Bulletin of Missionary Research Vol 4:2, Apr 1980.

Huband, Mark. 1999. Warriors of the Prophet: The Struggle for Islam. Oxford: Westview Press.

Huntington, Samuel P. 1998. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Simon & Schuster.

Jameson, Richard and Nick Scalevish. ‘First-Century Jews and Twentieth-Century Muslims’ in IJFM, Vol. 17:1, Spring 2000.

Jenkins, Philip. 2002. The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jenner, Henry. ‘Mozarabic Rite’ in The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. 1911. Censor Lafort, Remy. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

John Paul II. 1990. Redemptoris Missio: On the Permanent Validity of the Church’s Missionary Mandate. Hunter Publishing.

Karsh, Efraim. 2006. Islamic Imperialism: A History. New Haven, London: Yale University Press.

Kerr, David A. ‘Christian Mission and Islamic Studies: Beyond Antithesis’ in IBMR, Vol. 26:1, Jan 2002.

Khalil, Mohammad Hassan and Mucahit Bilici. ‘Conversion out of Islam: A Study of Conversion Narratives of Former Muslims’ in The Muslim World, Vol. 97, Jan. 2007.

Klauser, Theodor. 1979. A Short History of the Western Liturgy: An account and some reflections, 2nd Edition. Trans. by John Halliburton. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

Lahham, Maroun. ‘Eastern Christianity: Development across the two millennia’ Translator unknown, in St Francis Magazine Vol 2:4, March 2007.

Lewis, Bernard. 2003. The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror. New York: Modern Library.

Lewis, Christopher. ‘It’s Primetime in Iran’ in Christianity Today, Sep. 2008.

_____. ‘Looking for Home’ in Christianity Today, Sep. 2008.

Livingstone, Greg. 1993. Planting Churches in Muslim Cities: A Team Approach. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Mansour, Atallah. 2004. Narrow Gate Churches: The Christian Presence in the Holy Land under Muslim and Jewish Rule. Pasadena: Hope Publishing.

Masri, Fouad. 2006. Is the Injeel Corrrupted? My Search for the Truth about the New Testament. Indianapolis: Crescent Project.

Massey, Joshua. ‘God’s Amazing Diversity in Drawing Muslims to Christ’ in IJFM, Vol. 17:1, Spring 2000.

Metz, Johann B. 1993. ‘The “One World”: A Challenge to Western Christianity’ in Christ and Context: The Confrontation between Gospel and Culture ed. by Regan, Hilary D. and Alan J. Torance. Edinburgh: T&T Clark.

Miller, William McElwee. 1969. Ten Muslims Meet Christ. Grand Rapids, Michigan; Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans.

Musk, Bill. 2006. Kissing Cousins. Monarch Books.

Newbigin, Lesslie. 2003. Signs amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History. Grand Rapids, Michigan; Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans.

_____. 1995. The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission. Grand Rapids, Michigan; Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans.

Nikides, Bill. ‘Evaluating “Insider Movements”: C5 (Messianic Muslims)’ in St Francis Magazine Vol 1:4, March 2006.

_____. ‘The Church at the Crossroads: A Global Perspective’ in St Francis Magazine Vol II:4, March 2007.

Pardo Pastor, Jordi. ‘Ramon Lull y el Ars Conuertendi: Antropología, Apologética, Diálogo y Hermenéutica’ in Estudios Eclesiásticos, Vol. 80, No. 312, 2005.

Paul VI. 1976. Evangelii Nuntiandi: On Evangelization in the Modern World. Pauline Books & Media.

Pelikan, Jaroslav. 1978. The Growth of Medieval Theology (600-1300). Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press.

Peters, Barry. ‘Christological Monotheism—a Practical Methodology’ in St Francis Magazine Vol 3:3, Dec 2007.

Pitman, Emma Raymond. 1882? Mission Life in Greece and Palestine. London, Paris, New York: Cassell, Petter, Gilpin & Co.

Ramachandra, Vinoth. 2002. The Recovery of Mission: Beyond the Pluralist Paradigm. Wipf & Stock Publishers.

Register, Ray. 2000. Back to Jerusalem: Church Planting Movements in the Holy Land. Enumclaw, Washington: Winepress Publishing.

_____. 1979. Dialogue and Interfaith Witness with Muslims: A Guide and Sample Ministry in the USA, Revised Ed. Ephrata, Pennsylvania: Multi-Language Media.

Robeck Jr., Cecil M. ‘Mission and the Issue of Proselytism’ in IBMR 20:1, Jan 1996.

Royer, Chris. 2006. ‘An Apology for Greater Anglican Involvement in Turkey.’ Ambridge, Pennsylvania: Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, unpublished.

Sahas, Daniel J. ‘Ritual of Conversion from Islam to the Byzantine Church’ in Greek Orthodox Theological Review, Vol. 36:1, 1991.

Samuel, Paul Bender. ‘Initial Reflections on Holistic Ministry in an Islamic Context’ in St Francis Magazine Vol 3:2, Sep 2007.

Sanneh, Lamin. ‘Muhammad, Prophet of Islam, and Jesus Christ, Image of God: A Personal Testimony’ in IBMR Vol. 8:4.

_____. Whose Religion is Christianity? The Gospel beyond the West. Grand Rapids, Michigan; Cambridge, U.K.: Eerdmans.

Schineller, Peter, S.J. ‘Inculturation: A Difficult and Delicate Task’ in IBMR Vol. 20:3.

Schmemann, Alexander. 1963, 1973. For the life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy. Crestwood, New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press.

_____. 1961. ‘The Missionary Imperative in the Orthodox Tradition’ in The Theology of the Christian Mission, ed. Anderson, Gerald. New York, London, Toronto: McGraw-Hill.

Simson, Wolfgang. 1999. Houses that Change the World: The Return of the House Churches. Waynesboro, Georgia: Authentic Media.

Stacey, Vivienne. ‘Anglicans in the Household of Islam’ in SFM, Vol. 3:4, March 2008.

Stowe, David M. ‘Modernization and Resistance: Theological Implications for Mission’ in IBMR, Vol 12:4, October 1988.

Teague, David P. ‘Athanasius’ On the Incarnation and Mission Work Today’ in St Francis Magazine Vol. III:3, Dec 2007.

_____. ‘Speaking of Christ’s Divinity within Muslim Cultures’ in St Francis Magazine Vol 3:1, June 2007.

Tee, Iskandar. ‘Sidenotes on Insiders’ in St Francis Magazine Vol 3:3, Dec 2007.

Teeter, David. ‘Dynamic Equivalent Conversions for Tentative Muslim Believers’ in Missiology: An International Review, Vol. 18:3, July 1990.

Travis, John. ‘Messsianic Muslim Followers of Isa: A Closer Look at C5 Believers and Congregations’ in IJFM, Vol. 17:1, Spring 2000.

Vorgrimler, Herbert. 1992. Sacramental Theology, 3rd Edition. Trans. by Linda Maloney. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press.

Walls, Andrew F. 1996. The Christian Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis.

_____. ‘Old Athens and New Jerusalem: Some Signposts for Christian Scholarship in the Early History of Mission Studies’ in IBMR, Vol. 21:4, Oct 1997.

Weil, Louis. 1983. Sacraments & Liturgy: The Outward Signs. Oxford, New York: Basil Blackwell.

Weiss, Bernard G. 1998, Paperback 2006. The Spirit of Islamic Law. Athens and London: The University of Georgia Press.

Weston, Paul. ‘Lesslie Newbigin: A Postmodern Missiologist?’ in Mission Studies, Vol. 21:2, 2004.

Whiteman, Darrell L. ‘Contextualization: The Theory, the Gap, the Challenge’ in IBMR Vol. 21:1, Jan 1997.

Winter, Ralph. 1999. ‘The Kingdom Strikes Back’ in Perspective on the World Christian Movement, 3rd Edition, ed. Winter, Ralph and Steven C. Hawthorne. Pasadena: William Carey Library.

_____. 1999. ‘The Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Misssion’ in Perspective on the World Christian Movement, 3rd Edition, ed. Winter, Ralph and Steven C. Hawthorne. Pasadena: William Carey Library.

Woodberry, J. Dudley. ‘Terrorism, Islam, and Mission: Reflections of a Guest in Muslim Lands’ in IBMR Vol. 26:1, January 2002.

Wright, Lawrence. 2006. The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. Knopf.

Ye’or, Bat. 1996. The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude: Seventh-Twentieth Century. Farleigh Dickinson University Press.

Yergin, Daniel. 1993. The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power. Free Press.

Yohannan, K.P. 2003. Revolution in World Missions. Carrrollton, Texas: GFA Books.

Zwemer, Samuel M. 1902. Raymund Lull: First Missionary to the Moslems. New York, London: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

Sunni nervousness about the rise of the Shi'a

From HERE:

Qatar-based Muslim Brotherhood leader Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi recently set off a hot controversy. The influential Sunni cleric, a regular on Al-Jazeera, stated that "Shiites are heretics and their danger comes from their attempts to invade Sunni society." Interestingly enough this is far from just a religious debate, because it actually encompasses the fear that Sunni Gulf states feel regarding Shiite Iran's expansion.

In the context of a very tensed geopolitical situation in the Gulf, Qaradawi warned: "We should protect Sunni society from the Shiite invasion…. I am only trying to preempt the threat before it gets worse. If we let Shiites penetrate Sunni societies, the outcome won't be praiseworthy. The presence of Shiites in Iraq and Lebanon is the best evidence of instability."

This declaration is clearly aimed at Iran's threat to the region. While numerous examples of Iran's strategy of penetration of Gulf societies have surfaced in the past few years, new reports are quite worrisome.

Just two weeks ago, Adel al-Assadi, the former Iranian ambassador to the UAE told Gulf News that since 1979 Iran has assembled a force of infiltrators and collaborators who are ready to destabilize the region when needed.

Assadi specifically pointed out the danger represented by elements trained by Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who are in a sleeper mode until they are activated by Tehran.