Showing posts from October, 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 .

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 .

Allam to BXVI: Islam is not inherently good

Someone telling the trut h 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."[...]

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

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 poten

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.

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

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

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 sens

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 beha

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 mo

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 h

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,

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 sour

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 Cen

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. [...]

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 t

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.

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

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 M

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

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 extensivel y, 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 prop

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 i