Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Letter to the Pope

Hi All,

Well, I'm not sure he'll every actually read this, but I thought it was worth writing. My letter to the Pope on the topic of Catholic witness to Muslims can be downloaded at St Francis Magazine's website. Or just click HERE for the PDF.

Here is a sample:

The first reform I suggest is regarding Holy Scripture. One of
the most recurrent themes in conversion narratives of Muslims is
the reading of the Bible. Yet how many hundreds of thousands of
emigrants live throughout the West without access to the bible in
their own language? What if parishes in areas with significant
immigrant populations were told they had to have bibles available
in those languages--perhaps Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, Pashto, Turkish,
or something else? What if each sleepy Catholic parish became a
de facto source of distribution of Scripture? I am not talking about
proselytism, or even evangelism.

Please pass this on or link to it on your blog or website, especially if you are Catholic. Catholic mission to Muslims today is very weak, and it doesn't need to be like that.

--Abu Daoud

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The first modern Persian MBB martyr

The Presbyterians soon recognized that their plan to have Nestorian Christians evangelize their Muslim countrymen was not working. They then turned their own efforts in this direction, and small numbers of Muslims in Azerbaijan, Arāk, Khorasan, Tehran, and Gīlān did join the Presbyterian church. Indeed, the first Persian Christian martyr of modern times was Mīrzā Ebrāhīm of Ḵᵛoy in western Azerbaijan, a convert from Islam. The mullas tried to make him recant, offering him a comfortable place in one of their shrines, but he refused. After his wife left him, taking with her his children and his property, he was arrested and imprisoned in Tabrīz. When he began preaching to other prisoners he was segregated, and he finally died in prison in 1297/1880 (Elder, pp. 47-49).

From the Encyclopeadia Iranica.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Papal Mass in Glasgow

Because I have some Catholic friends in Scotland, and I happened to be in the UK at the time, I was able to make the papal mass today. It was inspiring in several ways. First, the sermon (which I have not yet found transcribed online) contained some direct challenges to the people present, in terms of not buying the world's narrative of success (sex, money, drugs, porn, fame, etc.), but rather invesitng in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. (How evangelical is that!)

Second, one of the hymns actually contains the explicit phrase, 'justified by faith.' Which I loved. Why be afriad of this phrase? This bishop recognizes that there is nothing unbiblical or indeed un-Catholic about this phrase. He embraces it.

Finally, most of the liturgy of the word was in Latin, which I much appreciated, though it surprised me.

May God giver this pastor success during the rest of his sojourn in this United Kingdom.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Coptic Christian on Islam in America

Using America's freedom of religion for the establishment of a religion that holds steadfastly to cutting off freedom of religion and freedom of speech in both principle and practice places the religion of Islam in direct contradiction with the American way of life. American secular culture, informed with Judeo-Christian principles, is heading on a collision course with its foreign antithesis, a culture I am all too familiar with.

Ashraf Ramelah, here.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Sometimes this kind of work is discouraging. Just so you have an idea of how the economy affects everyone, a church (our largest supporter) just notified us that their support for our ministry will decline by 50% beginning next year. That means a pay cut of $800/month. That may not seem like a whole lot, but to us it is. Put that together with the fact we have a baby due early next year, and, well, you get the picture.

In other news, I am off to Scotland later this month and will be there for about two months, working seriously and (let's hope) productively on my dissertation.

Your prayers are coveted. Oh yeah, and I'll be at the Papal Mass.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Of Mosques, Churches and Spanish history: Suigenocide

As noted in Andrew Bostom's essay debunking the just-can't-shake-it myth of Islamic "tolerance" in Muslim Spain, by the middle of the 8th century, the cathedral in Cordoba dedicated to Saint Vincent had been "converted" to a Muslim mosque. However, as 19th-century scholar of Muslim Spain (and Islamophile) Reinhart Dozy writes, this was "clearly an act of spoilation as well as an infraction of the treaty" between Cordoba Christians and the invading Arab Muslims.

All the churches in that city [Cordoba] had been destroyed except the cathedral, dedicated to Saint Vincent, but the possession of this fane [church or temple] had been guaranteed by treaty. For several years the treaty was observed; but when the population of Cordova was increased by the arrival of Syrian Arabs [i.e., Muslims], the mosques did not provide sufficient accommodation for the newcomers, and the Syrians considered it would be well for them to adopt the plan which had been carried out at Damascus, Emesa [Homs], and other towns in their own country, of appropriating half of the cathedral and using it as a mosque. The [Muslim] Government having approved of the scheme, the Christians were compelled to hand over half of the edifice. This was clearly an act of spoliation, as well as an infraction of the treaty. Some years later, Abd-er Rahman I requested the Christians to sell him the other half. This they firmly refused to do, pointing out that if they did so they would not possess a single place of worship. Abd-er Rahman, however, insisted, and a bargain was struck by which the Christians ceded their cathedral.

And so the single remaining church in the city became the Great Mosque of Cordoba. This mosque became a cathedral again in 1236 when King Ferdinand III of Castile recaptured the city from Muslim Moors.
Note, however, in these following thumbnails from recent news accounts of Muslim attempts to take the cathedral back for Islam (I'm not kidding), the fudging or complete omission of the cathedral's Christian origins preceding the establishment of the Great Mosque.

From the Times of London, April 3, 2010, "Muslims arrested for trying to pray in Cordoba's former Great Mosque":

The Great Mosque of Córdoba was converted into a Christian church in 1236 after King Ferdinand III of Castile recaptured the city from the Moors. The building later became the modern-day Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption.

Muslim organisations have long campaigned for the right to pray inside the building, which was once one of the biggest mosques in the world.

However, Demetrio Fernández González, the recently appointed Bishop of Córdoba, reinforced a ban on Muslims praying in any part of the 24,000sq m (260,000sq ft) building, saying that canon law did not permit it.

A statement from the bishop’s office said: “The shared use of the cathedral by Catholics and Muslims would not contribute to the peaceful coexistence of the two beliefs.”

The Roman Catholic Church cited archaeological reports that said before the Mosque was built in the 8th century remains of an earlier Christian temple had stood on the same spot.

From HERE. Ah Spain, London, Paris. We must invent a new word for you: suigenocide.

Response to Question at Circumpolar

Over at the blog Circumpolar, which I enjoy reading from time to time, there is an interesting discussion about words like contextualization, syncretism, and the question of Muslim followers of Jesus (some of whom would not call themselves Christians). A reader sent me two questions on my comment, and I wrote this is response. It's too long for their comment section, so I'm posting it here. --AD

1. Could you please define how you are using the words "contextualization" and "syncretism" here?

I am using a different definition of contextualization, and I think that it also the meaning that is being used by the seven self-church. The original meaning of contextualization was an extension of indigenization and was understood to be something carried out by the local believers, not by missionaries. Of course missionaries do indeed need to adapt aspects of their communication, that's not new at all. But the actual work of contextualization is primarily the prerogative of the local believers, in conversation both the church of history and other churches in the world. This is the understanding of contextualization advanced by Coe and Schreiter. This is what I cal organic contextualization.

Initially evangelicals didn't like this idea at all, as it came out of the World Council of Churches in the early and mid 70's.

Eventually, though, some did get on board but they started to view it not so much as an historical progression that would take place perhaps decades or even centuries after the initial founding of a church. Rather it was interpreted as a missionary method, something that missionaries could do ahead of time, in advance of the founding of the actual communities. Do you see the difference? It's quite dramatic, I think. So in the older sense of the word (organic) contextualization is an extension and the next step after indigenization (leadership and authority are xfered to the locals).

In the newer sense of the word, which is only used by evangelicals incidentally, this is what I would call directed contextualization.

Now to your question about believers in Jesus who still call themselves Muslims. I would break them down into three categories, though maybe there are more. 1) Those who do this because they don't want to be persecuted. 2) Those who use the term for the sake of evangelism and not burning bridges. 3) Those who genuinely feel and think like Muslims, but with some kind of affection or love for Jesus and faith that he reconciles us to God. I don't know any of the third sort, though I'd be interested in meeting some. Based on my lengthy conversation with our common friend yesterday I *think* he is advocating the second category. That doesn't seem to be what I hear from CG people though.

The only real study of people I've read who might be in category three are the 'Jesus Imandars' in Dhaka by Jorgensen, which is really hard to get (I had to get it from Yale, good grief!) Even there, only a third of the believers would say they are 'muslims', another third said something like 'Muslim followers of Jesus' and the final third would not say they are Muslims at all.

Re Syncretism: I simply mean 'mixing' and I think it is integral to Christianity. The Christmas tree is syncretistic, but it's ok. Modeling worship after a concert is mixing too, and evangelicals love it. So syncretism is, I would say, neutral. There can be good or bad syncretism. But both of the forms of contextualization mentioned above are syncretistic.

Question 2. You said, 'In that [c5] approach the Western missionaries do the 'contextualizing' and then present their version of the 'contextualized' gospel to Muslims.' That is a pretty broad brush-stroke considering that c5 is not a methodology but a system of classifying indigenous "churches." Are you implying that, in your experience, all Muslims who have chosen to follow Jesus and retain their Muslim identity have been spoon-fed this concept?

The two terms 'c5' and 'contextualization' have suffered the same fate. They were removed from their original context and recruited as evangelistic tools. Thus C5 went from being, as you rightly noted, simply a descriptive tool, to being a church-planting strategy. Missionaries decided ahead of time what kind of church their team would plant, maybe c4, maybe c5, and they would tell you, even before their first convert. Does this not match your experience? It sure matches mine.

Spoon fed? That's a little bit stronger term than I would use. It implies a sort of mono-directionality to the relationship between missionary and disciple. I would not say they are spoon-fed it, but they are fed it, or at least offered it and told that's it a good dish. And in the end, Anglican missionaries tend to make Anglican converts, as do baptists and Catholics and Pentecostals. We teach what we know. We try to allow for self-expression and exploration, but for the most part what the missionary suggests is what the disciple will believe. If the missionary suggests, you can or you should continue to call yourself a Muslim, then guess what, he or she probably will.

Hope that helps. --AD