Monday, April 8, 2019

Thoughts on Islam (1)

Following up some requests here and there for basic information etc re Islam, following the terrible events of 15 March 2019, it seems practicable, at least regards time, for me to devote a few weekly posts to Islam and my understanding of it.

Post number 1, today, proceeds from a question about "God" according to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Is it the same God?

(I guess this is pretty much the same question as whether Christians can call God, "Allah" or not.)

This is a fraught question because whether we answer Yes or No, there are ramifications!

"Yes, it is the same God" feeds the great and attractive myth of modern, Western secularism, that all religions are the same, and why can we not all get along, e.g. making cathedrals into inter faith venues.

"No, it is not the same 'God'" feeds - potentially tragically - into the clash of religions, if not civilizations, nations and races, because it fosters difference in society, especially in societies in which there is not a settled state of respect and reconciliation between races, religions, nations. The kind of difference, now experienced sadly in Christchurch, wherein a "white supremacist" feels emboldened to massacre Muslims.

The fact of the matter is that there is no easy, straightforward answer.

Consider the following aspects of the matter:

1. Yes, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are "Abrahamic religions," each affirming the significance of Abraham as an ancient patriarch of the respective faiths, and thus each affirming the God of Abraham is the God whom their adherents worship. (In this sense God = Jehovah, Allah, Theos.)

2. Yes, all three faiths are monotheistic, affirming that there is only one God, that God is one (indivisible), and that the one God is God of everything (the whole universe, or, if you will, multiverse). That is, not only do the three faiths deny that other gods exist, they also deny that the God they worship is in any sense merely nationalistic (God of Israel) or tribal (God of the Arabs ... or of Englishmen).

3. Yes, on the particular matter of the use of the word "Allah" for "God", Arab Christians use this term as do Arab Muslims. (It is a bit trickier in Malaysia where there is a ban on the use of the word "Allah" in Christian Scriptures published there.)

4. No, the three faiths do not agree on what they believe about the God of Abraham. In particular, neither Judaism nor Islam accepts the Christian claim that the fullest revelation of God is found in Jesus Christ, that consequentially God is believed to be One-yet-Three, Father, Son, Holy Spirit. That is, when we move beyond the bare name, "God", beyond the bare claim, that God is One (without rival, indivisible), into description of God, our understanding of "who" God is, which is also a claim about "how" God relates to us and us to God, then there are significant differences between the three Abrahamic faiths.

That is, the answer to the question at the beginning of the post is, "Yes and No."

But could we also say the "Yes" is very important? When we emphasise the "Yes" we are open to finding what we have in common, to seeing the points of respective theologies which we can unite around, and generally to appreciating what each faith might teach the others about the Godness of God.


21 comments:

Liturgy said...

Have we still not learnt the dangers of being the dominant culture?

At this time, have we Christians taken care enough and been sensitive enough not to colonise Muslims’ grief? I have seen and heard plenty of the sort of posts you have put up, Peter – but I have yet to see one dealing with this important question.

Event after event (and a multitude of statements), focusing on the March 15 terrorist attack, have explicitly referenced (in English and in Te Reo Maori) the Christian Trinity and offered prayer explicitly “through Jesus Christ our Lord”. Even the dating of the terrorist attack has always been using the Christian rather than the Muslim dating.

I have neither heard nor read any whisper from Muslims of the sort of debates that have energised some Christians in the manner of this post. Muslims have been gracious and accommodating, opening their grief to include the wider community in whatever way, they accept, we need to express that.

When Indonesian Christians recite the creed, they say, “Aku percaya akan Allah” – I believe in Allah.

Blessings

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

A brief response, Bosco, which does not do justice to the most significant issue you raise, as well as related issues you touch on, is that we are colonising Muslims' grief at least in part because we do not understand Islam.

That we do not understand Islam is obvious, to me at least, because of the questions about Islam that I am receiving, with implicit or explicit plea that "the Diocese" do something about the lack of understanding!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we could restate the tension this way: it is hard to deny that all three Jerusalem religions are speaking about the Creator, but it is also hard for any one of them to agree with what the other two are saying about him, and it is very hard to disentangle non-agreement from tribalism.

BW

Father Ron said...

Dear Peter, I'm a wee bit sorry that I'm going to be missing most of this ongoing debate: Whether the God and father of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the God of Jews, of Muslims and of Christians (Perhaps each of these Abrahamic Strands have their own view on this a view that we, as fellow children of God's promise to Abraham, might need to listen to, and respect.

I think many New Zealanders - especially us Christians - have been alerted to the fact that God may have "children who of not of this fold (Christian?)". Each of our three Abrahamic religions, as you say, Peter, believe there is only One God!

The reason for my absence is that I'll be 'offshore' (literally) until our return in mid-May. Happy Discussions, ALL. A Blessed Holy Week and Easter. God is Great! God is Merciful!

Glen Young said...


Hi Peter,

When I first became involved on your site,I posted to the effect, that the ACANZP had moved away from the Trinity of the Creeds and the Doctrine of the 39 Article and hence the Constitution 1857; into Arianism. Like the Church at Ephesus, it has left it's "First Love"; and in doing so,like Adam and Eve,it's eyes have been opened, to it's own consciousness of right and wrong. Any cricket coach will tell you that if you take your eyes off the ball,you will drop the catch.


How prophetic, the words of Kipling were when he said:"The east is the east and the west is the west, and never shall the twain meet". My interest in Islam was first awakened about 60 years ago when I heard a retired missionary,who had spent his life in the Middle East; speak on the problems Islam presented to the West. If you have a genuine interest in understanding
Islam; I would suggest the writings of Dr.William Lane Craig.

In the end, we either accept in our hearts, that the pre-existent logos,took on our human form and died on the cross for our sins, if we believe in Him; or we accept that following the "good works" demanded by Mohammed will gain you favour in the eyes of Allah,[one of the 360 gods of Mohammed's tribe].


Anonymous said...

Because religions deal in such irreducible categories, friction between them is often hard to describe. There is no *view from nowhere* that can identify this or that issue as the truly basic one for everyone.

But from a point of view close to that of Jesus, the present friction is this: Jesus taught and modeled a less authoritarian state than Mohammed did, and that prompts (post-)Christians to worry about Muslim influence on their state and society. While the worriers do not embrace the specifics of sharia, they do differ viscerally among themselves on the question: how authoritarian should our states be?

BW

Jean said...

Colonising of grief is an interesting topic Bosco. I think most Kiwi’s grieved the way Kiwi’s grieve and I don’t really believe the Muslim community would be concerned about that. If I was in another country where Christianity or Kiwi-culture was in the minority, if there was a tragedy, I would expect people to grieve the way they knew. I have little doubt the Muslim community alongside the wider communities services and memorials will also hold their own private, both family and faith, traditional ceremonies.

BW you hit a main nail I the head I believe. It is the authoritarian state arising out of Islamic belief that causes friction, and perhaps realistic reason for caution. In the last few days I have had received/read examples of this. The woman lawyer, who represented women in Iran who signed a petition wanting the freedom not to wear the headscarf, being sentences to 140 lashes and 40 years in prison. 120 Christian killed in Nigeria in the last 3 weeks in an ongoing campaign against the churches by Muslim Herdmen, and a woman jailed and tortured in Saudi Arabia for driving. The degree of such authoritarianism of course will differ in degree of practice such as in Iraq where ISIS was the extreme exemplification. It is little wonder Muslims can find western countries unmoral and I would no doubt be in agreement with them on many moral matters albeit not all. And yes BW we will all have different views about how authoritarian our states should be and we are perhaps a little naive in the large part, generically speaking, about how much our view on this in western countries has been shaped by Christianity. And now, as the secular majority is influencing our ‘traditional’ outlooks are undertaking a rapid change.

In terms of theology and whether our faiths have the same God - your summary was pretty good Peter. Personally that our view of God and His ways differ significantly from the Muslim’s is the reason I take the stance we do not worship the same God. A part of this for me also stems from Islam (coming after Christianity) having the stance of the true ‘word of God’ as coming to Mohammed through the lineage of Ishmael. This of course presents a conundrum for Jews and Christian’s whose God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the God of the Promise. My yes, comes in the form of seeking understanding, what do Muslim’s believe, where does it intersect with Christianity and how do they view our beliefs. All this helps one better able to relate to one’s neighbours. One needn’t adopt another’s position or practice another’s faith in order to converse. As for Sam Neil, hmm... well ... yes... that all paths lead to God is a popular position...

So on that note Ron if you are still here. In regards to the sheepfold. I believe that verse goes on to say others will here his (Jesus) voice... and since we are taught the way into the fold is through the Gate (Jesus) it doesn’t to me speak the message of an openness to other ways to God other than through Jesus. It is not that I can’t empathise with the desire. I once prayed in a Buddhist monastery to my God with earnest desire that all religions may lead to him, however, my journey has had me learn otherwise...

Some positive news from the Euthanasia Bill committee (depending on your position), it seems a number considered the bill untenable and unsafe to introduce to New Zealand especially for the disabled and elderly. And another development with the re-debating of abortion laws!

Happy 🐣 Easter All

Glen Young said...


As tragic and unlawful,as the event in Christchurch on March 15th was;it seems totally insensitive and contrary to the Canons of the ACANZP,for a Bishop of that Church,to question the very Divinity of Christ, in the immediate period of the lead up to His death [as I type these remarks on Palm Sunday-the day of His triumphant entry into Jerusalem. HE,was also innocent of any charge that was brought against HIM;but my belief [like that of other Trinitarians] that HE is God and was crucified for my sin,is offensive to Islam.

So are you saying +Peter,that I cannot enter into truthful and intelligent conversation, because Muslims find the belief that Jehovah is the Father,the Son and the Holy Spirit offensive.That is what HATE CRIME in the U.K. comes down to. This amounts to nothing more than mob thinking and denial of the
"RIGHT OF THE INDIVIDUAL TO STAND BEFORE GOD".

The event of March 15th did not help bring about a rational debate on whether we want a society based on the NATURE and CHARACTER of JEHOVAH or Allah because that will determine whether we live under Westminster or Sharia law.



Peter Carrell said...

Hi Glen
No, I am not saying you cannot enter into truthful and intelligent conversation etc.
I am saying that conversation about Islam and Christianity is a matter of some complexity if we are to understand each other well.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jean. You may find that Harvey Cox hit that nail even more squarely in the quotation that + Peter has posted in the margin to the right.

On the ground, a secularising society wants less authority than a capacity for collective action requires. To accommodate this mood, the churches of King Jesus minimise their own authority and maximise their appeals for tolerance across the myriad fissures that are opening among us. As far as they go, the modesty can be prudent and the appeals are responsible, but a church that says nothing else will be even flakier than the society around it.

Meanwhile, solidarity slips away and it becomes harder and harder for a society to muster a collective will to solve its problems. Yes, the temperamental authoritarians among us-- we call them "wingnuts" up here-- are out of step with their times and often have crazy ideas about policy, but they are also the proverbial canaries in the coal mine. Trump-defending, Francis-hating, and Brexit-pushing are all deranged, but so too is the expectation that a group need never make a concession to loyalists who are lost without some reasonably just solidarity. The financial crisis of 2008 and the irrational austerity that followed it demonstrated that the confident solidarity that many nations enjoyed after the Second World War is spent.

On Palm Sunday, one cannot help but notice the juxtaposition of fear and love.

Commanders-in-chief ancient, medieval, modern, and now postmodern have struggled to secure enduring loyalty and unity with fear. At the moment, for example, my president wants me to support him for fear of a ragtag band of refugees fleeing Central American tyranny through Mexico toward our border. Some say that he is a xenophobe, others that he is a racist, but I think that he will use any occasion for fear that he can find to bolster his weak support.

The fickleness of the crowd at Jerusalem that cried Hosanna! on Sunday but Crucify him! on Friday has been the trope of a million disparaging sermons. But the text does not say that the crowd were smiling. Which of those preachers would have answered Pontius Pilate to his face that, no please, it would really be better to release the anti-Roman revolutionary? What this Holy Week subplot actually shows is that an allegiance conditioned on mere power is a narrow and fragile one that is easily shifted when, to all earthly appearances, the power itself has shifted.

In contrast, King Jesus bound his subjects and unified his realm from the cross with a love that still reaches out to the world (Romans v 5). The question for us is-- how does the Body so live out this Maundy Thursday love that it not only has dense solidarity in itself, but even reverses the disintegration around it?

Have a blessed Holy Week and Easter, Jean!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Need_for_Roots

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simone_Weil

BW

Jean said...

Hi Bowman

Nice to hear from you.

So the question is, How did Jesus capture loyalty with both authority and love? (Noting authority differs from authoritarian) For despite the death He died he never relinquished either.

It all reminds me of a saying in the film Schindler’s List that true power lies not in having the means (in that case a gun) and using it, but having the means and choosing not to use it. It appears when a person uses their authority in the pursuit of love it is mightier than authority used for power-over. A girl will be more likely to obey a Father who tells her not to wear a short skirt out on the town because he loves her and he doesn’t want her to come to harm than a Father who threatens to punish his daughter if she disobeys. The message is the same the motivation is different. Are we as the Church tempted to change the message rather than uphold the motivation?

Ha, ha enough from me. Go well.



Anonymous said...

Jean, an answer from me that is somewhat worthy of your question will have to wait until Trinity. But not to leave you unjustly empty-handed in the meantime, here is an interesting link--

https://youtu.be/mOJ1wUcP804

Talk like this often raises an upRohr, but the speaker is an Evangelical. And my source for the link is a Trump supporter who could not possibly be more conservative in his own ethics and, so far as I know them, his own life choices. Law, law, law, law, law... All the way down.

But for a child of God, no shame at all. This is not the sort of thing that
Evangelicals are said to believe. But in fact, many do.

BW

Glen Young said...


"Some say that he is a xenophobe,others that he is racist,but I think he will use any occasion that he can find to bolster his weak support"
B.W. April 15 @ 4.28 AM.

And others might say,that he has the common sense to understand that,as shocking as life maybe in these man made hellholes that they are fleeing;any sensible leader cannot let millions of illegal immigrants into their country.May I ask who you think would make a better leader?

I follow the American political scene with a amazement and hopefully,Farage may be able to bring some sanity to England.

Anonymous said...

Hi Glen.

The President is correct when he says that there is a crisis on our southern border: detention centers designed for lone men are packed with Central American families, and there are too few judges to adjudicate all of their claims to asylum from persecution. But the economic migration against which he campaigned dried up several years ago when the Mexican economy began to thrive.

And your news source is confused. There are not millions of immigrants claiming asylum from Central America. Under US law, persons fleeing persecution to claim asylum are legal immigrants, not illegal. Those duly making them have a recognized legal right to be here. Again under US law, asylum claims are a judicial matter beyond the merely executive authority of the POTUS.

There is not much support in either major party for a change to that law. Indeed, although both parties had been seriously debating immigration reform for the past two administrations, the President's remarks against immigrants have so polarized the electorate as to make open borders almost orthodox among Democrats. In fact, his efforts to discourage emigration from Central America may have frightened more there into hastening to the US while they still can. And immigration hawks fume that their ally in the White House is too enthralled with his wall to help them reduce the major flow of illegal immigration-- students, tourists, businessmen, etc overstaying their visas.

Now "any sensible leader cannot let millions of illegal immigrants into their country" is almost a word-for-word quotation from a post-election speech by Hillary Clinton, but the severe US criticism she received for saying it shows how quickly minds here have closed on that issue. So long as our trouble on the border is framed as an immigration problem, I doubt that any hypothetical leader can fix it.

Where corruption is deteriorating into anarchy that drives refugees abroad, we confront a *complex humanitarian emergency*. We owe our neighbours law and order somewhere. Under *just war theory* there is at least a *prima facie* duty for an admittedly inconvenient intervention (cf Hamlet). Perhaps then Josiah Bartlet?

https://youtu.be/1Z7HxDB9kLU

We can talk more after Trinity. Meanwhile, have a blessed Easter!

BW

Anonymous said...

BW is talking nonsense, just repeating Democratic talking points. Here are the facts;
1. Over 100,000 would-be migrants claimed entry to the US from the southern border last month. There *would* be millions from Central and South America if there were no border.
2. The vast majority are NOT refugees but young men looking for a better life. And who can blame them? But as with the millions (yes, millions) of immigrants from Africa and Asia in Europe, very few are actually refugees. Everyone knows that is a ruse.
3. Genuine refugees from violence in Honduras etc could claim asylum in Mexico - and should. Why don't they? Because they are not refugees, they are job seekers. There is no civil war in Central America at present.
4. The US doesn't need millions of unskilled workers who don't speak English. Automation is wiping out lots of these jobs.
5. The Democrats are doing what all the parties of the left have done in Europe - encouraging mass immigration of the low-skilled who will become their future voting bloc. Already this has worked in Nevada, making it reliably Democratic now and if they can flip Arizona and (one day) Texas, they will have a complete grip on the Electoral College. This is so obvious it is insulting to pretend this isn't the plan. We know exactly what the talking heads say on MSNBC and CNN.
6. It isn't America's job to sort out Central America's problems - in fact, American intervention in the past has usually made things worse, albeit in a proxy war with Cuba. Josiah Bartlet is a Hollywood fiction and adults shouldn't indulge themselves in such fantasies (like WMD and other dangerous ideas that led the drumbeat to war).

David

Anonymous said...

A blessed Easter, David. After Trinity.

BW

Anonymous said...

Moreover, immigration from Mexico and Central America has turned California in one generation into a left wing one party state, from the state that once had Ronald Reagan as Governor and voted for him in two Presidential elections. California has become the state of the ultra rich- thanks to Silicon Valley- as well as the highest taxes and the greatest number of homeless people. The middle classes have been fleeing California for states like Texas with no income tax and cheaper houses. All this suits the Democrats because the ultra rich are liberals and the poor are their dependants. All of this has been thoroughly documented by leading public intellectual Victor Davis Hanson in "Mexifornia" and his many commentaries on the deterioration of life in California today. As a native of the Central Valley where he farms as well as a prolific and wide ranging academic, this former Democrat is uniquely placed to comment on Californian life.

David

Glen Young said...


Hi Bowman and David,

I concur with David;but let's get back to the original topic.Islam denies the Trinity,on the assumption that it is the Father,Mary{the Mother of God} and her Son. This view of the Trinity would be offensive to Christians also. While recognizing Jesus as the son of Mary and even that he was born to a virgin,they deny his divinity and only see him as one the Jewish prophets.Nor do they recognize the person hood of the Holy Spirit.

Islam did not start as a inter-cultural faith;but as a rallying cry to bring the Arabian tribes together. Those who did not join in free will, were brought into "submission" by the sword. Once Arabia was in submission,Islam set it eyes on a wider mission;at first peacefully but then by force.It is not their denial of the Trinity,alone,which causes me concern;but the fact that the Koran states:"Fight those from among the People of the Book who....do not embrace the true faith until they pay tribute out their own hand and are utterly subdued." [9.29] Chapter 9 goes on to rebuke in the harshest terms,any Muslin who refuses to go forth to fight [9.38/39].[William Lane Craig-Concept of God in Islam and Christianity].

"These are the last commands in the Qur'an with respect to unbelievers. Mohammad died shortly thereafter in 632 with plans before him for attacks on neighboring nations.His successors carried out those attacks;Persia in 633,Damascus in 635,Jerusalem in 638,Egypt in 640 and so on,right across North Africa to the Atlantic Coast."ibid.

"Contrary to what you hear tirelessly repeated in the media,the word Islam does not mean "peace". That claim is linguistically false.Islam is the Arabic word for submission or surrender.That is what Muslims are required to do:to surrender everything to God.Thus contrary to Western way of thinking,Islam is not a church.It is crucial that we understand this.Islam is a total way of life where everything is submitted to God:government,the economy,social mores,every aspect of society is submitted to God.Islam is thus all consuming.The Western idea of the separation of church and the state is meaningless in Islam.For everything is to be submitted to God."ibid.

Is this the God I worship?

As Joshua said:"And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord,choose you this day whom you will serve;...........,but as for me and my house ,we will serve the Lord." Josh.24/15.











Anonymous said...


Words matter:

Remember when your Lord inspired the angels... I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them. Quran (8:12)

And fight with them until there is no more fitna (disorder, unbelief) and religion is all for Allah. Quran (8:39)

Let those fight in the way of Allah who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward. Quran (4:74)

The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement. Quran (5:33)

Anonymous said...

Glen is correct. The idea that "Christians and Muslims worship the same God" is nonsense once you start to ask some serious questions about the Trinity and 'Tawhid', the utter Unitarianism of Islam which denies fundamental points of the Christian creeds. How Islam *really* developed (as opposed to the folkloric version you can read in anodyne school textbooks and the like) is still a mystery to me, since (in huge distinction to the Gospels) the written "sources" of Muhammad's life come from a couple centuries after him, and I don't know how much credence to put in the hadiths. And the Quran itself is an extremely uneven piece of writing, with as much as 10% of its vocabulary being obscure even to scholars of Arabic (a fact that led to the recent theory that it was largely a translation of Syriac Christian hymns).
But we do know that Islam arose in the early 7th century Hejaz, where Christian Arabs, monophysite Christians, Arabized Jews, Jewish Arabs, and polytheistic Arabs all rubbed shoulders with each others; and if the hadiths are true, Muhammad had Christian relatives and a lot of interaction with Jewish traders and tribes. The 'garbled' versions of Old Testament and New Testament stories that we find in the Quran are what we might imagine from people who learn from an oral, folkloric tradition rather than an actual knowledge of the biblical texts. My own hunch is that Muhammad was probably a convert to some kind of Arabized Judaism, with elements of monophysite Christianity thrown in. But of course I can't prove this. But in point after point, Islam appears as a kind of Judaism modified for Arabs.
What we can say about "the Muhammad of history" - if we believe the hadiths - is that he was a warlord with a religious message for the pagan Arab tribes, that he was married twelve times and he punished his enemies severely, especially the Bani Qurayza Jews, and the Arab woman poet who mocked him. If such a man is considered exemplary for religious believers, then the lineaments of a religion and culture to follow are easy to see. But in any dialog between Christians and Muslims, we need to cut to the quick and compare Muhammad with Jesus and ask, 'Who is this man?'
In the meantime, I am not expecting people to rally in mass gatherings to support Sri Lankan Christians. Such is the world.

David

Glen Young said...


Hi David,

"But in any dialog between Christians and Muslims,we need to cut to the quick and compare Muhammad with Jesus and ask "Who is this man?" David -April 22 @
7.12 PM.

This man will either be the most essential Being that we encounter in life, or just another man who claims God spoke to him.Both would claim a ancestry from Abraham;one through King David and the other through Ishmael."And the angel of the Lord said unto Hagar,Behold thou art with child,and shall bear a son,and thou shall call his name Ishmael:because the Lord hath heard thy
affliction.And he will be a wild man;his hand will be against every man and every mans hand will be against him.Gen. 16-112 12. And God's covenant was
established Sarai's son Isaac not Ishmael. Gen 17:19&20. So one gained power through the sword and the other through love.