Fr Ted Pulcini: Eastern Orthodox guidance on how to interact with Muslims

Below are my critical remarks on an interview with Fr. Theodore (Ted) Pulcini on "Come receive the light" radio, recommended to me by Albion Land. The Orthodox Christians I know (and many of the Christians in my country here in MENA are Orthodox) have no knowledge whatsoever of how to witness to the Christian faith. Nevertheless, this is a positive development.

Following are my comments on the strengths and weaknesses of this radio interview:

Comments: his statement about Trinity and "God is love" is from Ramon Lull (a Roman Catholic), not sure if he knows that.

Discussion of the Bible: am wondering if he knows Arabic. Comparing Christ to the Qur'an is an orthodoxy these days.

Mostly am thinking that the interviewer's questions are totally lame.

His pronunciation of Arabic words is not bad.

Question about the Fall of mankind: now we're moving along! Much better question. Original sin as the beginning of a chain reaction--I like this, I can use this. I (AD) would go so far as to say that hamartiology is the central difference between Islam and Christianity.

OK, here's a load of crap: Muslim fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists defile their religions in the same way. Hmm. They certainly both defile their religion, but one group become intolerant and arrogant, the other intolerant and violent.

Rant on fundamentalism: Dude, I know some very fundamentalist Orthodox Christians. Really, not kidding. Narrow-minded and judgmental as anything.

The example of Fr. Dougl (a RC, not Orthodox, btw): he did not preach or seek arguments. Good for him, but I don't know many fundamentalist missionaries who do this. The fundamentalists I know aren't polemicists really either, they have seen it doesn't work so well.

"Giving an icon of Christ in their midst" "It wasn't because of anything he said". A very facile, naive, and Western mutilation of the Godhead: Actions without words. Christ and the Apostles never preached or lived such a thing.

Christianity and the power of love: I'm with him.

Conclusion: for the most part not worth listening to.

Comments

David said…
I think you're a little harsh in stating that the Orthodox "have no knowledge of how to witness the Christian Faith." I think that words like evangelism, apologetics, and even "witness," though, are generally foreign to Orthodox in their day-to-day lives (though not those specifically engaged in missionary or apologetic work) [and I apologize if that statement doesn't make much sense; I couldn't think of a better way to word it].

We Orthodox, I think, I have a different outlook on "witnessing" than what Protestants are familiar with. Witnessing is not primarily an "active" activity in which a person goes out and preaches the Faith or debates with nonbelievers. It is a daily lived experience of, simply, being a Christian.

It was not the apologetics of Sts. Justin, Irenaeus, Clement, etc., which converted the Roman world and surrounding areas to Christianity in those early centuries of the Faith, after all; it was the daily-lived example of Christians being Christians. Pagans, Jews, and heretics were hardly impressed with the arguments these holy men put forward (as great as their arguments may sound to use 2000 years later) -- they were impressed and, eventually, converted by the immense charity and love which Christians practiced and lived.

This point, I think, is often missed by Protestants. In the end, I think that we each have something we can learn from each other when it comes to how to reach out and spread the Gospel of Our Lord.
Brother Abu Daoud,

You said:
OK, here's a load of crap: Muslim fundamentalists and Christian fundamentalists defile their religions in the same way. Hmm. They certainly both defile their religion, but one group become intolerant and arrogant, the other intolerant and violent.

Manifest Destiny, bombing of abortion clinics, and this shirt indicate that some Christian extremists do become intolerant and violent. But beyond that, I do think Father Ted said a little more than your summary above. I thought his little speech on why normal folk are bullied into silence by fundamentalists was on target. And his observation that Christianity (for the most part) has moved beyond proof-texting to okay violence for political gain, while Islam has not is an interesting proposition.

Other than that, fair assessment.

Peace to you brohter,
From the Middle East
Dang, just read my comment and it sounds kind of harsh. Didn't mean it that way at all. Peace.
Albion Land said…
Might I suggest that you are perhaps being too harsh, speaking as an undisputed specialist in the area? I think it is important to remember that this broadcast is for the general public, and not for academics. And given my limited knowledge of the intricacies of Muslim theology, I think he did a very good job of pointing out what we have in common, which is important, but also the very important and, ultimately, irreconcilable differences between us.

Also, "From the Middle East" said, you've got some pretty nasty characters out there on the nutwing of the Christian right. Okay, they don't take out skyscrapers, but I wouldn't put it passed one of them to favour nuking Mecca if the possibility existed.
Abu Daoud said…
Thanks for your comments. Your insights are appreciated.

David: it seems a little unrealistic to compare the Orthodox Churches of today to the Patristic church in terms of witness. Those early Christians did indeed share their faith, through deed and word, they did preach and they did intentionally evangelize. That, because it went WITH their good works, made the church an effective witness.

RE the other objections: That having been said, I still think comparing Islamic fundamentalism to Christian fundamentalism without any kind of acknowledgment that the one very rarely results in violence, and the other frequently does, is irresponsible, and I am using measured language in my choice of the word 'irresponsible.'

That having been said, I think I give him credit where credit is due and acknowledge that he gets a number of things right (imho).
JohnG. said…
Dear Abu, since I read your blog, I'm very upset about Lull; I bought one of his books but it's too "high" for me.
Could you present Lull's view on Islam , particularly on how to reach muslims?

Thanks whatever will be your answer.
Abu Daoud said…
Hi John G. Lull is not someone who is easy to read, you are correct. This is especially true because he was writing in a very different period of time and was very philosophically-minded, meaning he is not easy for people without such training to read.

A good place to start is Bridger's article at SFM here: http://www.stfrancismagazine.info/ja/content/view/252/38/

The main insight that RL had, and which I think is still being used in varied forms today, was to begin from shared assumptions, not by quoting Scripture at each other. Llull's method was to begin with assumptions that all Christians, Jews, and Muslims could accept regarding the "dignities" of God--eternality, glory, power, love, justice, and so on. From there he compared the Christian and Muslim visions of God and argued that the Christian view portray a more glorious, loving powerful God than does the Islamic understanding.
JohnG. said…
Thanks Abu,

St Thomas Aquinas seems to share a certain point of view with Lull : you have to begin with someting so vast that it could be used has a universal tool to "evaluate" these two religions.
Thomas begins with "reason" and says that an extraordinary message must be proved and proved by extraordinary signs; and that Jesus, its apostles and christianity brings these signs, whereas Muhammad did not made any miracles.
Abu Daoud said…
JohnG:

I would say the difference is that RL started with central Islamic exclamation: God is greater! (Allahu Akbar!) rather than imple reason. Reason does not always fair so well in Islamdom.
JohnG. said…
It's true that my western mind deals easier with Thomas way of thinking.
Hum, I'll try raymon Lull again ;-D
First reading the article you led me toward; second in reading again the book of him I have.
Where are difficulties in understanding, there are often progress for mind !
nomadsguide said…
Nice to meet you Abu Daoud. Yes, as Islam rapidly grows in power and influence especially in Europe I believe it is imperative that efforts to bridge mutual understanding between Islam and other faiths are made. How foolish it is, especially in this modern day to engage in an anxious race of one religion over the other that will inevitably end in violence as religious zeal reaches ultimate desperation. If I may ask, what is your email and where in the Middle East do you live? I plan on speaking with people like you, in hope of creating a documentary. My email is iansanityy@hotmail.com

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