Thursday, March 4, 2010

Not all wisdom resides in Anglicans!

Clayboy is an engaging blogger. Sometimes I disagree with him, and he with me. But he always says something worth pondering. One of his series he is posting on is the 39A - very good it is too. His latest is on Article 18.

In the course of it he shares this piece of Sufi wisdom by Rābiʻa al-ʻAdawiyya al-Qaysiyya:

"O God! If I worship you for fear of hell, burn me in hell,

and if I worship you in hope of paradise, exclude me from paradise.

But if I worship you for your own sake,

grudge me not your everlasting beauty."

Somewhat distant, this insight, from the driving motivations of suicide bombers ...

Speaking of a female Sufi saint, my mind is still cogitating about Christa. Post coming soon.

POSTSCRIPT: Carl Somers-Edgar has a beautiful post on the Light, not a million miles in sentiment from this Sufi stanza.


Anonymous said...

Why should the fear of hell or the hope of paradise be unworthy motives for believers in the True God? Such an attitude affects to be holier than Jesus, who warned us to fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell (Matt. 10:38) and to lay up treasures for ourselves in heaven (Matt. 6:20).

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

This takes me back to some basic principles in Scripture: without faith it is impossible to please God, for it was by faith not by works of the law that Abraham was justified and we are children of Abraham if we share his faith. And, wait for it, faith comes from hearing (a kindling process) and in order that the promise may rest on faith. The measure of it you have is a gift from God. Therefore you accept those whose faith is weak without passing judgment on disputatious matters. In Romans 14, what comes from faith is faith, doubt isn't, even if it compels good behaviour.

So, nowhere in all that basic Christianity is there any suggestion of a kind of Pascal's wager mentality, or that faith should be kindled by scaring people about the alternatives, or that it's some kind of transfer ticket into a blessed state.

Thus St Bernard "My God I love thee not because I hope for heaven thereby"

This is classic Christianity, and it very little room for threatening, cajoling, browbeating or compelling by fear of the alternatives. When Christians remember this they minister the grace of Christ. When they forget it, they give off mixed signals and become another squabbling, whining minority with an puzzling sense of their own rightness and entitlement.

So, missionally, I am delighted to see Christians living the kind of faith that struck you in the sufi poem. It's that grows the Church.

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you Bishop Alan.

Anonymous, it would be poor form for anyone, least of all me, to affect to be holier than Jesus. Fear of hell can lead to Christ (it did for me); indeed for some it may be the only way for the Hound of Heaven to breakdown resistance to Christ. But I do not think that therefore makes it less inspiring to think that as we continue with Christ we might be transformed in our motivation for remaining in Christ: that we might see the face of God rather than avoid the fires of hell.

See also

Anonymous said...

I beg to differ with both Alan and Peter. As long as we live this side of heaven - and are prone to sin and self-deception - the potential admonition remains:

"nondum consideravisti pondus peccati."

C. S. Lewis is very good on this in 'Mere Christianity'. I remember from my childhood the words of Ignatius of Loyola: "Teach me to work for no other reward than the knowledge that I do your holy will."
But that sounds more like the bloodless Immanuel of Koenigsberg ('only the good will is perfectly right') than the blood-shedding Emmanuel of Bethlehem, who tells us that it is God's holy will to reward those who seek Him and punish those who repudiate His call. This has nothing to do with Pascal's celebrated 'Pari', which is a rhetorical push made at unbelievers or agnostics, not reprobates who know that God exists.

Peter Carrell said...

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.