Monday, April 29, 2019

Thoughts on Islam (2)

How sympathetic can Christians be to "the call of the minaret", to the Islamic call to worship and to prayer? Many years ago I read the famous account of a deeply Christian and deeply sympathetic encounter with Islam - a classic of its kind - written by Kenneth Cragg and titled The Call of the Minaret. In the light of recent events, I must re-read it.

But recently  my attention has been drawn to another, more recent account of a sympathetic encounter with Islam, written by Mark SijlanderA Deadly Misunderstanding: Quest to Bridge the Muslim/Christian Divide. Here Sijlander works hard, is pressed hard within himself by a series of insights, to find significant tracts of common ground between Christianity and Islam. More common ground than I thought possible. Perhaps too much common ground for many Christians?

These are not idle matters. Since I wrote my first post in this series (the length of which I know not), we have had the atrocities in Sri Lanka in which innocent people, including innocent Christians going about their Pascha worship, were targeted for death and destruction, by extremists claiming the cause of Islam as motivation and seemingly spurred to sacrifice their own lives by an Islamic understanding of martyrdom and paradise.

There is, of course, no common ground, no bridge to be built from a Cragg-Sijlander approach to Islam in general to the particularly murderous machinations of the Sri Lankan bombers. But where the Cragg-Sijlander approach is vital is for our relationships with 99.9999% of Muslims who have no thought of violence in the cause of their faith and only desire to live in peace with their neighbours. [Following a comment, see below, with my reply, I need to nuance that last sentence! Clearly, if we take account of all violence across the Islamic world (e.g. Muslims fighting Muslims) and across the world, then a much larger percentage of Muslims are prepared to take up weapons in the struggle for their faith, either in reality (e.g. Hamas v Israel) or in a theoretical stance (e.g. fighting back against, say, American (perceived as "Christian") troops invading an Islamic country). My focus here is on the willingness to indiscriminately bomb or shoot non-Muslims: by my reckoning, a very small percentage of Muslims are willing to do that; by far the overwhelming majority wish to live in peace with their neighbours, whether in Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Britain, France, etc.]

If we are not to read the violence of the 0.0001% into the lives of the Muslims we encounter at work, at school, in the supermarket, on the bus, we need an approach which looks for common ground, for the bridges between us.

I have only started reading Sijlander's book. I am looking forward to finishing it!

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

I thought your math was better than this, Peter.
There are an estimated 1.8 billion Muslims in the world and their number is growing rapidly because of the high birth rate in Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia.
0.0001% currently equates to 1800 persons.
From Britain alone, 800 persons went to Syria to fight for ISIS and help murder Christians, Yazidis etc.
Even tiny Belgium sent hundreds of jihadis. From across Europe - hardly the heartland of Islam and certainly the most 'westernized' part of the Muslim world, literally thousands of jihadis went to Syria.
Do you have any idea what is going on in Nigeria, in East Africa, in Pakistan? I know you have some acquaintance with Egypt and so must know something of the fears that Coptic Christians live with. Maybe you weren't even aware that Sri Lanka had a very violent Islamist movement with at least scores of supporters.
If you think only 1800 Muslims in the world are intent on causing harm to non-Muslims, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. The number of Muslims in the world will likely surpass 3 billion before 2040, and most of this growth will be in poor and violent countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and across swathes of North Africa.
As for Europe, most or a very large part of the Islamist-inspired violence has come from persons born and raised in Britain and France. Those communities will not get smaller in the years ahead. And the religious fixation of many of them with Israel will not go away either.

David

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David
I will change the post to admit I am doing a bit of guess work!
Having said that, are there more than 1800 Muslims who want to indiscriminately bomb their way through non-Muslims?
Those who went to fight in the Middle East and Afghanistan were joining a war, often between Muslims.

Anonymous said...


Facts are better. And waste less time.

https://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/religious-projections-2010-2050/

Yes, there have always been doers of evil. And there still are. There will be evildoers until the End.

Yes, they are scary sometimes. The Exile was especially scary. So was the destruction of Jerusalem. Scariest of all will be the End.

But the biblical God is Almighty; we live and die in his providence.

No, fear does not deter God's people from doing what he has called them to do. This is not because we are not informed or cannot do math. It is because we have faith in the God of the scriptures and obey him with gratitude for the love he has shown us in Jesus Christ.

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God."

We will obey the Son by finding common ground and building bridges with others. If any among them wish us harm, we will forgive our enemies and pray for them.

And we will pray for his mercy on those who failed to trust his protection and do his will.

BW

Anonymous said...

Yes, BW - didn't Frank Loesser write a song about this?

David

Anonymous said...

Common ground has to begin with the only common factor, that human beings experience the divine. Starting with theology and doctrine might be interesting, or not, but it's mostly pointless because theology and doctrine are merely subjective speculations about the experience of the divine, not the experience itself. The encounter with the divine, or the spiritual world, is the one thing that most human beings, cultures and religions have in common. This is true whether we are talking about Islam and Christianity, or any other religions.

In an increasingly divided world in which the extremes, peddling various version of 'Us vs Them' speak the loudest, sometimes with violence, emphasising what we have and experience in common is more important than ever.

Glen Young said...


Hi Peter and others,

We can have and should have as much sympathy for the "call to the minaret" as we have for all those who deny the "DIVINITY OF CHRIST".Do you have equal feeling for building bridges with the J.W.'s,the Mormons and the many groups who do not share our views on the Trinity? And,yet, which of those groups espouse the beliefs found in the Koran at chapter 9? I noticed yesterday that Saudi Arabia beheaded 37 people for so called crimes such as posting social media blogs opposing the government; [two of them in their teens],that the King of Brunie has just stated that his kingdom is introducing beheading and loping off of hands for a number of moral offences and that all the migrant youth who were interviewed in Germany said that girls who wore dresses that did not cover their ankles deserved to be raped.

So,please excuse me Peter,if I am so arrogant and Islamophobic to state that I have no wish to desire to live in such a society;or for my descendants to face that situation.We live in a democracy where every person has a vote; and what happens when the number of voters who desire sharia law outnumbers those wishing the Westminster System of Government.Look at the present demographics!!!!!; falling European birth rates and rising rates in the lower socio-economic groups.I do not see one example in the world where socialism has preceded the wealth accumulation of capitalism;and yet all these migrants are fleeing the hellholes that Islamic law has created.

And finally,Peter,the French experts? have suggested putting minarets on the Norte Dame in memory of some Muslins who were killed protesting the Algerian war. Now there is a "BRIDGE BUILDING EXERCISE";some minarets on the Christchurch Cathedral

Anonymous said...

"Starting with theology and doctrine might be interesting, or not, but it's mostly pointless because theology and doctrine are merely subjective speculations about the experience of the divine, not the experience itself."

Yes, Shawn, it's a good thing there's no such thing as the devil either, or some people might think they're being fooled. Let's have none of this nonsense about 'testing the spirits, whether they be of God.'
And as you say, all religious experience is the same, isn't it, we just get a bit confused describing it, like the blind men and the elephant. We must be grateful for all-seeing kings who can put us right. So if some Muslims want to kill Hindus in India over some perceived injury, or if other Muslims want to kill Buddhists as well as Christians in Sri Lanka, or yet other Muslims blow up Buddhist statues in Afghanistan, while others blow up Coptic Christians in Egypt, we need to roll back to the baseline and talk about their common 'experience of the divine'. Is that right?
Or maybe the truth is that the "experience" isn't God at all - but the projection of a ferocious psychological evil - or even something demonic? Good luck with your conversations.

David

Anonymous said...

Hello David.

"So if some Muslims want to kill Hindus in India over some perceived injury,,,, we need to roll back to the baseline and talk about their common 'experience of the divine'. Is that right?"

Why do Islamist terrorists do those things? For the same reason the Catholic church launched a crusade in southern France against the Cathars that killed an estimated one million people, launched the horrors of the Inquisition, the crusades in the Middle East, and killed men and women for being homosexual. For the same reason Protestants and Catholics slaughtered each other after the Reformation, and for the same reason tens of thousands of people, mostly women, were tortured, burned or hung for supposedly being witches.

Believing your doctrine and theology is the sole, exclusive and absolute truth to which all others must submit has never led human beings anywhere good. Neither does elevating religious texts written over a thousand or more years ago when people still believed the world was flat to the status of divine revelation. Theology has it's place, doctrines and religious texts also also, but only when they are held lightly and with a great deal of humility, because they are only human speculations attempting to describe our experience of the divine. When they are elevated to absolute, exclusive and divisive truth claims, horrors are never far behind. Christian churches have visited many horrors upon countless peoples over the last two thousand years, and some are still doing so. That fundamentalist Muslims are doing so as well is not an opportunity for self-righteous finger pointing at Islam. It should be a warning to all of us about the dangers of believing that we are on the side of the "true God and His one and only revelation" and those other people over there are not.

Anonymous said...

Very poor reasoning, Shawn, and a very poor grasp of the history of the Crusades, among other things. For a moment I thought I was reading one of those those old rants against religion that the Rationalist Press used to publish. Ah dear old Dove-Myer Robinson. "My" doctrine and theology are not mine- they're from the Bible and Jesus Christ. You seem to have some Hickean view of religion that all religions are really the same underneath and they're all misunderstood by the blind men touching the elephant. I'm sure you know that old chestnut doesn't convince today.
The only contrast that matters is between Christ and Muhammad. If you think they taught and lived the same, you haven't properly read the Quran or the New Testament. Nor do you seem to grasp how Islamic law works.
David

Peter Carrell said...

Dear David
A bit less focus on the "you" of the commenter, please; and stick to the ideas/arguments instead.
THanks
Peter

Anonymous said...

Hello David.

No, I don't believe all religions are the same, but I do believe that human experiences of the Divine have identifiable commonalities. I have read enough of those, from Hindu mystics to Islamic Sufi mystics to Christian mystics to see the similarities, which are striking. Now similarities is not the same thing as being exactly the same, but when you allow for religious and cultural differences then the similarities are enough that we can speak of a shared human experience.

Religions and specifically religious texts, are a mix of things. Origin myths for a specific people, mythic history, social rules for the times, and interpretations of specific people's encounter with the Divine, such as Abraham, Moses, Muhammad, Jesus and his disciples, or whoever. Here though is the important thing. The interpretations written in religious texts are not the experience itself, just words about the experience. They may be useful up to a point, just like a description of a sunset is useful, but hardly comparable to the experience of actually seeing one personally.

Problems arise when people or religious institutions elevate those descriptions, the religious texts, to the status of Divine writ, believing that they were literally written by God and then fell down to earth, pure and free of any fallible human agency. The problem with that becomes very serious when the texts are then used to tell or force other people as to what they can or cannot believe, and how they must live. That's when we get crusades, witch burning, Catholics and Protestants slaughtering each other, persecution of homosexuals or Islamic terrorism.

"The only contrast that matters is between Christ and Muhammad."

The problem here is that none of us alive today personally knew Christ or Muhammad. What we know about them is filtered through hundreds of years of interpretation, myth, theology and culture. It's not the difference between Christ and Muhammad that matters, it's what people alive today believe about them that does. A Christian whose beliefs about Christ inspire him to works of charity and poverty relief, and a Christian who blows up an abortion clinic, will both claim they are following Christ. A Muslim who joins ISIS and kills people, and the Muslim man here in Christchurch who forgave the man who shot and murdered his wife, will both claim they are following Muhammad. So it's not Christ and Muhammad that matter as much as what people believe about them that does.

""My" doctrine and theology are not mine- they're from the Bible and Jesus Christ."

As a former Evangelical I used to believe the same thing. It's simply not true, of anyone. Millions of Christians who insist that they are only following the Bible and Jesus nevertheless believe radically different things about both. The reason we have such a vast number of Protestant churches is because people claiming the Bible alone as their foundation could not agree on what it says on important issues. Calvinists and Arminians, Lutherans and Pentecostals all claim they are just following what the Bible and Jesus say, yet cannot agree on many issues, and not just peripheral issues. The same is true with regards to Catholics vs Protestants. Throughout history people reading the same book have come to different, sometimes radically different, opinions as to what it says. The hard truth is that the Bible is not at all objectively clear, and has to be interpreted, and interpretations are little more than subjective opinions, made even more subjective by being interpreted in a given historical period and culture.

So nobody just follows the Bible and Jesus, they follow their opinions about them, and like the Quran, it's those opinions that make the difference between someone who spends their life doing good and behaving with kindness towards others, and a person who burns witches or commits acts of terrorism.

Anonymous said...

Peter, I'll comment more after June 16, but pause a moment now to get clear about the starting point for your series and OP. Are you asking about bridges (a) from Jesus to Muhammed, or (b) from Islamic countries to New Zealand, or (c) from Anglicans living today to contemporary Sunnis, Shiites, etc?

BW

Anonymous said...

"The reason we have such a vast number of Protestant churches is because people claiming the Bible alone as their foundation could not agree on what it says on important issues... Throughout history people reading the same book have come to different, sometimes radically different, opinions as to what it says."

Alas, no. We have new churches because ambitious leaders start them. To do so, they ignore strong biblical grounds for robust unity, and cite weak biblical grounds for subtle new denominational distinctives. Calm professional exegetes have rarely been convinced. Inter-church polemics reveal more about human nature in conflict than about the internal coherence of a set of documents from two generations of close collaborators from the same ancient milieu. Unsurprisingly, that coherence is so great that professional biblical scholarship today includes not only every variety of Protestant, but Catholics, Orthodox, Jews, and many unaffiliated. We do debate the notion of *biblical authority* in churches but the intelligibility of the text is not the presenting problem.

BW

Peter Carrell said...

Dear David
I cannot publish your comment in the form you submitted it. That is because it involves "ad hominem" comment in which you discuss another commenter as though you are a complete authority on that commenter's personal belief and thoughts thereof. You are not and your speculations are unhelpful to the good order of discussion on this site which I ask, as previously on many other threads, be about ideas and arguments and not about the commenters.
Your redacted comment is below.
Regards,
Peter

"Hi, BW - you are of course free to engage whomever you will in debate, as I am too.
[...]
[...] I agree with you that we start with the Risen Christ as testified by his holy martyrs the Apostles. And from the Resurrection of the Messiah the whole doctrine of the Catholic faith proceeds. [...]

David
"

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Bowman
We will build bridges from Anglicans/Christians to Muslims when we look for and find common ground between us, ranging from a recognition of the preciousness of common humanity, through recognition of commitment to peaceful living in share community, to acknowledgement of all we hold in common about the transcendence of God, the significance of Isa/Jesus, the importance of prayer, almsgiving and pilgrimage.

Bryden Black said...

Dear Shawn,

Thanks for the engagement, but I do sense there are a few key missteps with the building blocks of your argument, which is therefore a tad confused and confusing. To be sure; you’re in plenty of ‘good’ company! The debate has been raging since say 1970, when so-called “Structuralists” were ‘pushed aside’ by so-called “Post-structuralists”. And from a comment made by a local parishioner in Avonhead last October, citing someone from our current university crowd, it’s alive and kicking still! There’s nothing quite as old as the trendy. CS Lewis refereed to “chronological snobbery” ... And to cite further company context: our own Province these past 15 years has also singularly failed to identify the problem, let alone address it adequately - with serious consequences. All this by way of introduction.

Step One is to cultivate the tools required for evaluating our understanding of our experience. A primary concern here is to acknowledge ALL human experience comes pre-loaded via language and culture; there is quite simply NO human experience that is bare or naked. The likes of the later Wittgenstein is key here. In all this, I’d point to the seminal work of Bernard Lonergan; see e.g. Method in Theology and Insight. Lonergan was a giant polymath of the 20th C. He was born in Canada in 1904, became a renowned Jesuit theologian, and bequeathed at his death in 1984 a small but highly significant body of literature we are slowly coming to grips with. But perhaps let’s walk before we try to run ...

So Step Two would be to digest Alister McGrath’s The Genesis of Doctrine: A Study in the Foundations of Doctrinal Criticism. The 1990 Bampton Lectures (Basil Blackwell, 1990). Here he necessarily begins by addressing George Lindbeck’s The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age (WJKP, 1984), which has had enormous influence, but which is also part of the problem. Building on this then would be to also digest Alister’s subsequent “noddy guide” (his language) to his wonderful A Scientific Theology (2001/2/3). I recommend his 240 page paperback, The Science of God: An Introduction to Scientific Theology (2004). Vital here is the distinction between “social construction” and “social mediation”, since there’s literally a world of difference between the two understandings. Amusingly, Michael Polanyi had already put this finger on all this as early as 1946 with his own Science, Faith and Society (Chicago, 1946), to which I was introduced as a school boy. Little did I know just how seminal that would turn out to be! [Polanyi of course is a key element of TF Torrance’s work, just as Alister too has embraced TFT’s oeuvre magnificently.]

Enjoy the reading Shawn. And then get back to the issue of Christian-Muslim relations - and all the rest! - accordingly ... Shalom! this Eastertide.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bowman

To cite some examples, Baptists remain distinct denominations over the issue of adult vs child baptism, JW's over the nature of Christ, Orthodox and Roman over the nature of church authority, and Catholics and Protestants over several important issues, the big one being faith vs works, all of which are theological in nature and so rest on differing interpretations of the Bible. I don't doubt that church politics sometimes play a role,the split between Roman and Orthodox being an obvious example, but that seems an insufficient explanation, especially for the Reformation and the denominational and theological variety it unleashed.

On other issues that have come up I am not saying that the Bible is unimportant, that is not at all what I believe, but I am convinced that it's value is not as a source of doctrine and rules or as a source of religious distinction that create Us vs Them divisions. That's equally true of Christ.

That's about as much as I would like to say about these issues though as we are getting off topic. My original point was that to find common ground with Islam we have to start what we have in common as human beings who are spiritual creatures who experience God. Of course that's just a starting point, and I agree with + Peter that it's also useful to explore what we have in common regarding theology and practice.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear All,
Apropos of things being said here and there in comments above ...
1. There has never been a question in my mind as I have talked with (variously) Roman Catholics, Muslims, Hindus of fudging what is distinctive in belief, while nevertheless
2. seeking what is common ground between us, in a spirit of agreement that
3. nothing held as distinctive doctrine is worth killing anyone over, though I assume that
4. all people of conviction in such conversations are willing to die for what they believe.
I rather assume that all commenters above, despite a sentence here or there giving an impression otherwise, would actually agree with my 1-4!

Anonymous said...

Hi Bryden,

It's less chronological snobbery than a re-evaluation of what the Bible as a tool is fit for, and what it is not fit for. As a mythic story which we can enter into through the imagination to encounter God at the level of soul to Spirit, I to Thou, it is eminently fit for purpose, though it is not unique as far as that goes. As a tool to determine abstract doctrinal and theological "truths", or worse, to determine "true religion" from "false religion" it is in my opinion, not fit for purpose.

I spent twenty years reading a great many theology books, from a wide range of perspectives, liberal, post-liberal, conservative evangelical and Pentecostal. What I learnt from all of that is worth nothing compared to walking in a forest for an hour and allowing myself to be open to the Presence.

Bryden Black said...

The curious thing about dilemmas Shawn is they often place us on the horns of false ... dilemmas!

I surely trust thy Presence has a Name; that’s all!

Jean said...

A comment to the side conversation: Jesus to me is intricately connected to the Bible in so far as the Bible has not only been instrumental in leading me into a closer relationship with Jesus but many Holy Spirit experiences I have had connect to scripture. Rather than bearing all on +Peter’s blog, one simple example, before I knew the Bible very well I heard an audible voice. Much later I discovered during a Bible study that what I had heard was actually, word for word, a verse from the Bible. With little desire to use scripture as a battering ram, it is for me essential as a source of Christian doctrine and truth.

As for the more complex ‘primary’ conversation:

I known far more people from Hindu, Buddhist, Bahai, and Confuscious backgrounds than Muslim. In general speak I have found people of any religion are more open to speaking about religion than those who profess to be secular or atheist. In general speak in a western context I have only ever experienced hostility twice in the form of the ridicule of Christianity one from a young Muslim man, and one from a Buddhist after attending a Christian funeral. Again I have by far experienced more uncomfortable comments regarding Christianity from professing secular or atheist individuals.

I have seen the ‘dark spiritual side’ to a number of faiths, specifically Hinduism and Confusionism which have had ramifications on those involved. As such I am unable to agree that ‘all religions’ have common ground and I am wary of the somewhat pervading attitude adopted in NZ and other western countries of seemingly embracing the religious practices of other faiths in community events in the context of multi-culturalism without fully understanding what they are embracing. However, I believe all religious people have common ground which is we are all people 😊 and deserving of the dignity and respect that entails, and we all seek a spiritual dimension in life.

Unfortunately +Peter I think there are certain people willing to kill for their beliefs. Fortunately that doesn’t include all and in NZ’s context I would take the risk of assuming there are very few who would do so. I have not personally felt in any danger from the friends I have had who have beliefs differing from Christianity.

Father Ron said...

Just read of your departure from ACNZP, Bryden. Where are you hoping to minister from this point forward, if I may ask? Or will you be retiring to the bucolic environs?

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Peter. To me, that sounds like sensible (c), and I will confine my attention to that obviously salient topic. I hope that your readers in Christchurch find this discussion helpful.

Christos anesti, Bryden! I will be less taciturn after June 16.

Alas, Shawn, I have lost the thread of your digression, and have no time to look for it. We discussed the nature and limits of biblical authority here last summer, and more recent discussions of the theology of Robert W Jenson (eg Canon and Creed) and William J Abraham (Canonical Theism) have reprised many of the arguments made then.

Roughly, particularistic rejection of a soteriology of participation in the Body and union with Christ generates an authority crisis to which a modern and legal hermeneutic for the ancient Bible has demonstrably not been equal over the past few centuries. That is the scene that you have painted.

But if Christ is risen, then the gospel is true, and that rejection is unbelief in the third article of the creed. Thanks be to God, most of us hereabouts believe the third article, stand with the main Body, and read the scriptures from within with the narrative hermeneutic implicit in the creed and the canon.

This hermeneutic does not prevent diverse perspectives on a diverse canon. But for those reading within the Body these riches are enjoyable rather than threatening. Admittedly, this hermeneutic is unsatisfactory to those seeking a way into the text from the *view from nowhere* (Thomas Nagel). But since the *view from nowhere* does not exist-- and whatever they say, nobody in fact stands there-- we have no reason to care about that. Predestination, election, and vocation are all within the gospel narrative, not outside it.

To be clear, the Father sends rain on the just and the unjust. And Jesus accepts even non-disciples who cast out demons in his name. So our view of scripture means, not that the Holy Spirit rejects eg Baptists-- still less that we should-- but rather that their theology is an unreliable guide to the Life that he gives them. Were they to agree with us, they would be even better Baptists, whether they joined the Body or not.

Bryden's most recent book is a winsome introduction to much of this.

*

Down the decades, I have seen several acquaintances wander into a certain trap. Having once been hard core members of a group that defined itself over against other religions, they resiled from the authoritarian excesses of such groups and fell away from them. Then, imagining that they had shed their shackles just by walking out, they roamed alone wherever they wished, rejoicing in their new-found freedom from authority.

But just leaving error had not given them the experience and empathy to make sense of their new possibilities. Having once been accepted as knowledgeable members of something, they lacked the humility to see themselves anew as the beginners that they in fact were. Finally, although they learned all sorts of new things in their travels, they did not know what lurking old ideas they badly needed to unlearn. And if they had known, they would not have known how to do it. (The practical Orthodox begin their rites of baptism and conversion with exorcisms.)

Hence they remained estranged from all those other bodies that their former companions had opposed. For them, only their old tribe of renegade Mormons, opus dei Catholics, fundamentalist Baptists, liberal Protestants, old calendar Orthodox, etc could feel truthy to their guts, yet they knew in their heads that it had not been truthful.

Wandering hallways because they could not enter a new room, sit down, and listen to someone else for awhile, they ended up in the stairwell as the unhappy popes of well-read churches of one. If you are sure that you have avoided this fate, then I am relieved. But if not, please be very careful.

BW

Glen Young said...



Hi Peter,

Your response on May 2nd @ 11.02 AM certainly raises some interesting points:
(3) "Nothing held as distinctive doctrine is worth killing anyone for; (4) all people of conviction in such conversations are willing to die for what they believe".

It appears that there are three similarities between Christianity and Islam; they believe in a God, they both have a book which lays out the call on the believer and that martyrdom for that belief, may be called for.And there the common ground ends.Our accountant always told us that the devil lies in the detail. So it is here.

Mohammed claimed that the Koran was given to him by the Angel of God;and therefore it could not have been the same God who inspired the Bible.The New Testament makes it clear that we may be required to lay down our lives for our faith; but Chapter 9 of the Koran claims that it is the faithful who die
killing infidels (Jews and Christians), who is the martyr, whom God will reward.This perverted logic is not consistent with the New Testament.No Christian can hold up the New Testament and say :"This is why I killed someone";however the Muslin can not only claim they killed in the name of Allah but also that he will reward them for it.

Anonymous said...

Hello Bowman.

I had no intention of debating this particular discussion. My first comment arose from a deep desire and concern to find common ground with Islam. Given the recent horrific attack in Christchurch, and now Sri Lanka, on top of everything else that has happened over the last twenty years, I fear that we may be approaching a tipping point in the relationship between Islam and Christianity, and Islam and the West. Tit for tat terror attacks between Islamists and anti-Islamic Westerners are a new development that should seriously worry us all. For now, thankfully, our Prime Minister has done an outstanding job in building bridges with the Islamic world, but we entering dangerous territory that requires people of goodwill on both sides to hold the line against extremism and hate.

Doing so means learning some humility with regards to our beliefs and religious distinctness. It does not require us to give them up, but it does require that we remember that we are all limited and fallible human beings trying to make sense of the world, and all human beliefs are just that, beliefs, none of which that we can know with 100% objective certainty are true nor prove are true. We are all wandering in the wilderness, trying to make sense of the world we live in. Religion is one way that we try to make some sense of it. Nobody can reasonably claim they know the Truth with 100% certainty, and that others do not. In the end it may turn out that some did and some didn't. But for now, we ourselves cannot claim so. Humility in the face of our limitations in that regard is a good starting point in finding common ground with our Muslim brothers and sisters.

As for me and my journey, that is not relevant to the issue that + Peter is wanting to explore here, but your last comment about wandering in hallways brought to mind this:

"In my Father's house there are many mansions."

Anonymous said...

Glen raises the issue of the apparent difference between the New Testament and the Quran regarding killing in the name of God.

Before we get to that though there is a more important issue to deal with, whether or not religious ideology plays a central role in Islamist terrorism. The answer to that is not as obvious as it may seem at first. Since the 1990's a great deal of research has been done on why people join extremist groups, including Islamist ones, prepared to use violence. That research shows clearly that ideology plays a much smaller role than other factors. Social alienation from wider society leads some young men to find a sense of belonging and self-affirmation elsewhere, and both gangs and extremist political groups provide that. The ideology is less important than the sense of belonging, of being part of a band of brothers. That is why members of white supremacist groups often struggle to articulate what they believe, and why we sometimes find that young Muslim men who have committed terrorist acts also drank alcohol or engaged in other behaviours at variance with their claimed beliefs, such as the 911 attackers visiting a strip club. The claimed ideology is less important than the sense of belonging to a tribe.

We also need to admit to the role Western and US foreign policy has played. Prior to the 1990's Islamist terrorism did occur, but it was much rarer than now, and has been surging since the first gulf war. Bumbling about the Middle East engaging in war and regime change has created chaos and a fertile ground for the emergence of terrorist groups motivated by hatred for the West. Al Qaeda's roots lie in the US's arming and training of Afghanistan Islamists to overthrow the Soviet occupation, ISIS emerged from the collapse of the Iraqi government as a result of the second Iraqi invasion.

As to the supposed differences between the NT and the Quran, it is telling that Glen leaves out the OT, which shows "God" commanding the Hebrews to commit genocide and slaughter the Canaanites, men women and children, without mercy. Is this not the same God we are told to also find in the NT? And what of the inconvenient fact that for most of it's history Christian churches and Christian governments were quite happy to kill in the name of God? The example of the Albigensian Crusade in which close to a million people were murdered for holding different beliefs to the Catholic church being one example amongst many. It may be tempting to resort to the no true Scotsman fallacy, but that does not cut the mustard. Actions speak louder than words, and from Crusades and religious wars between Protestants and Catholics, to the more recent Iraqi war, Christians have found it quite easy to find Biblical justification for killing others.

Bryden Black said...

Dear Bowman, I shall look forward to 17th June and its aftermath: it’ll be a deluge! Meanwhile, thank you for your comments re the latest revisions of those two books; but thanks are due especially to those readers who gave their feedback, which surely improved matters! And finally yes; some (many?) nowadays are potentially wandering the moors as the mist and rain obscures any view that might offer direction for their passage. Our prayers are needed especially for them ...

Bryden Black said...

Yes Ron; +Peter was kind enough to mention me in dispatches. As for locale: I have been quietly and patiently listening to the Chief Shepherd’s voice while also naturally engaging my own heart and mind in the conversation. So; as my Scots grandmother used to say: “Nie fret thyself laddie!” I’d only suggest the Province looks to itself in its own inchoate condition ...

Bryden Black said...

Ah Peter; your 1-4 @ May 2, 2019 at 11:02 AM. Well; I have to say rather a lot circles around the notion of “common ground”. For how any of us may navigate/negotiate that notion becomes THE key. For, as I was saying in my answer to Shawn, re the further notion that Lindbeck made (in)famous around his “Experiential-Expressive Model”, and which David alluded to earlier via his mentioning the (so-called) analogy of an elephant and the blind beggars (@ April 30, 2019 at 9:21 PM), no human being may escape the cultural-linguistic component of human experience. In addition, one suspects such a Model as that proposed by Lindbeck owes far too much to Schleiermacher and his heirs/legacy around the notion of das Gefühl and notably das Gefühl schlechthinniger Abhängigkeit (the feeling of absolute dependence) as ‘the core’ of the Christian Faith. A most culture-bound notion indeed! And easily refuted!!

No Peter; we may speculate about “common grounds”, even regarding human nature etc; and yet even approaching this is pretty problematic let alone depicting it in the actual event. As one who was part of the VCC’s Gospel and Cultures Commission for some time in a previous life, far more care than is usually taken is demanded. So that when it comes to specific engagement between Christians and Hindus (h/t Bob Robinson) or between Muslims and Christians (h/t not just Kenneth Cragg or Michael Nazir Ali, but notably Nabeel Qureshi), even your 1-4, in the actual event, takes us only a very short distance indeed. Something else is required, something far more; and St Paul’s missionary examples might point us in the right direction, as may Roland Allen’s or Vincent Donovan’s.

Father Ron said...

Thank you, Shawn, for your last comment (1.11pm) on this thread. In the current controversy over Christianity versus Islam, we Christians have to meekly remember the Biblical passage that speaks of God giving an inheritance to Abram's children through Sairai's slave-woman, Hagar: that God would give them a share in the inheritance of Abram.

We Christians know, and I truly believe, that salvation came into this world, uniquely through the Incarnation, Ministry, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus the Christ. But this does not prevent God's patrimony of the chidlren of Ishmael (or any other religious Group that looks to God for salvation. Jesus, I do believe, is the KEY to the Messianic Promise. As you remind us all; Jesus DID say: 'In my Father's House there are 'MANY MANSIONS' (*caravansarei?) This may surely be interpreted - for those willing to understand the complexity of that promise - that God, who has created ALL human beings in the Divine Image, also cares for the 'sheep who are not of this fold' - which certainly does not limit God's salvation to the different strands of Christianity, but may extend to all the people of the world.

As St. Paul reminds us; "Here, we see through a glass, darkly (with incomplete comprehension), there, we will see Him, face to face". Cristos Anesti, Alleluia!

Anonymous said...

Hi Shawn

"Tit for tat terror attacks between Islamists and anti-Islamic Westerners are a new development..."

+ Peter's readers will not be surprised to read that I view this as another bid for classic polarization-- (1) opposing extremists first grab attention, (2) then inspire distrust and panic, (3) acknowledge only each other, (4) divide all between their poles, and (5) finally absorb them into opposing camps. As the old modernity has slipped away, this paradigm has worked again and again and again.
Arguments about the relative violence of Christians and Muslims fit (2), as the only actually violent person in view explained in his manifesto.

Against dueling extremists, centrists struggle because they do not command attention, do not offer a safe defined identity at the centre, and alas do meet the march of mobilization with the diffuseness of deliberation. In personal terms, it is gut-wrenching for leaders inured to a pluralism of flowers in the meadows to fence the centre to stop its division. Yet we cannot be the elders of our own youth, for that is to dip one's toe in the same river twice, and "to every thing there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven."

Plato anticipated much about this time in his cycle of regimes (Republic, Book VIII). But in the postmodern condition particularly, polarization is simply easier for naked souls than ever more radical pluralism, and that is why the latter is so easily disrupted. Nevertheless, poles defined by aversion succumb to authoritarian excess, either jacobin or carlist, while a centre around a deep and enduring love can itself endure.

"Doing so means learning some humility with regards to our beliefs and religious distinctness."

Where humiliation by cosmopolitans is the problem, populists will not embrace humility toward Others as the solution. Nor would it accomplish much if they did-- an interesting dialogue needs two articulate interlocutors confident that the work of presenting and listening will bear fruit over time.

But a humility toward one's own tradition can be a solution if, by following a thread of learning through its labyrinth, one arrives at the Object of the love in the heart of it. When one's self-understanding depends on the love of the Object rather than on a paranoid aversion from the Other, one can be confident and cordial in dialogue.

So when Fred Sanders teaches his Evangelical undergraduates St Thomas's summas, he is simply initiating them into a major source of their own Protestant tradition (eg obviously Richard Hooker, seminally Franciscus Junius), but of course he is also showing that Aristotle, Averroes, Ibn Sina, and Maimonides contributed to the articulation of their received doctrine of *creatio ex nihilo* (cf David Burrell). This sound respect for the intellectual depth of their own tradition and for the benefits of interfaith dialogue seems more likely to help than to hinder then in an appreciative dialogue with Muslims who likewise know their own tradition.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franciscus_Junius_(the_elder)

https://brandon.multics.org/library/misc/burrell2004thomas.pdf

https://journals.lub.lu.se/STK/article/download/7161/5877/

*

If + Peter's series is still running after June 16, perhaps more then.

BW

Anonymous said...

Hello Bowman.

"Against dueling extremists, centrists struggle because they do not command attention"

True, and another worrying problem. An article I read in the Atlantic recently about polling in the US showing that conservative and progressive activists are both unrepresentative of what most Americans think and believe was interesting. This is of course playing out in the Democratic primary.

"Where humiliation by cosmopolitans is the problem, populists will not embrace humility toward Others as the solution."

No they won't. But populism does tend to burn out quickly as people realise that populist politicians don't have the answers they claimed to. Humility also applies to the cosmopolitans. Sneering at rural folk for valuing rootedness and tradition is not at all helpful.

Bryden Black said...

Dear Bowman, I shall look forward to 17th June and its aftermath: it’ll be a deluge! Meanwhile, thank you for your comments re the latest revisions of those two books; but thanks are due especially to those readers who gave their feedback, which surely improved matters!
Yes; immense “care” is needed nowadays as some (many?) are potentially wandering the moors while the mist and rain obscures any view that might offer direction for their passage. Our prayers are needed especially for them ... For, while you subsequently mention the Perennial Philosophy of the Middle Ages (Jewish, Christian, and Islamic), which might manage to give some lives some ballast, Alasdair MacIntyre’s diagnosis via his “Disquieting Suggestion” surely shows the atomism of our contemporary intellectual and moral worlds. And I sense the chasm between then and now is just too wide ...

Bryden Black said...

Yes Ron; +Peter was kind enough to mention my name in dispatches. As for locale: I have been quietly and patiently listening to the Chief Shepherd’s voice while also naturally engaging my own heart and mind in the conversation. So; as my Scots grandmother used to say: “Nie fret thyself laddie!” I’d only suggest the Province looks to itself in its own inchoate condition ...

Bryden Black said...

Ah Peter; your 1-4 @ May 2, 2019 at 11:02 AM ... Well; I have to say rather a lot circles around the notion of “common ground”. For how any of us may navigate/negotiate that notion becomes THE key. For, as I was saying in my answer to Shawn, re the further notion that Lindbeck made (in)famous around his “Experiential-Expressive Model”, and which David alluded to earlier via his mentioning the (so-called) analogy of an elephant and the blind beggars (@ April 30, 2019 at 9:21 PM), no human being may escape the cultural-linguistic component of human experience. In addition, one suspects such a Model as that proposed by Lindbeck owes far too much to Schleiermacher and his heirs/legacy around the notion of das Gefühl and notably das Gefühl schlechthinniger Abhängigkeit (the feeling of absolute dependence) as ‘the core’ of the Christian Faith. A most culture-bound notion indeed! And easily refuted!!

No Peter; we may speculate about “common grounds”, even regarding human nature etc; and yet even approaching this is pretty problematic let alone depicting it in the actual event. As one who was part of the VCC’s Gospel and Cultures Commission for some time in a previous life, far more care than is usually taken is demanded. So that when it comes to specific engagement between Christians and Hindus (h/t Bob Robinson) or between Muslims and Christians (h/t not just Kenneth Cragg or Michael Nazir Ali, but notably Nabeel Qureshi), even your 1-4, in the actual event, takes us only a very short distance indeed. Something else is required, something far more; and St Paul’s missionary examples might point us in the right direction, as may Roland Allen’s or Vincent Donovan’s.

Glen Young said...


Hi Shawn,

I am having great trouble in collecting together a logical response to your collective blogs;as they appear to be shot gun blasts at the target.Much easier to hit the target with one bit of shot,rather than with a single rifle shot.I am deadly with the pistol but hopeless with the .308.My Sgt. said: "forget about loading your rifle,we give you a bayonet to charge".

So here goes.The problem for any sane Westerner, does not lie with the guy next door who is Muslim;but with those who have infiltrated our immigration system with intent to do us harm.Do I accept that our Government Officials have the "WISDOM OF SOLOMON"; NO.

The Christian Western World has developed a political system and values about life and property, which has given us the society we have today.By interpretation and re-interpretation of the Holy Writ;we have edged closer to an understanding of what the Father,Son and Holy Spirit intend us to be.
The New Testament confronts us with the challenge of having both corporate and individual responsibilities to the Godhead.It is easy to stand outside all of this and lay the sins of the fathers and the father's fathers on the present generation;but through the "Life,Death and Resurrection of Christ", we have what is known as "Repentance and ATONEMENT". False ideas can be set aside new understandings of the "TRUTH" emerge.It is not that new truths emerge but that the full truth of what we have always and everywhere believed becomes apparent.SO PLEASE DO NOT BLAME ME FOR THE CRUSADES or anything else that the Kings of England or Europe may have done hundreds of years ago. That is between them and God.

However,Islam (in the Koran) deny both the death and resurrection of CHRIST;
and therefore stand outside of his "FORGIVENESS"; and can not move beyond the 7th Cent.

Having spent twenty years owning and operating mental health units and spending countless hours in psychiatic analysis,I am more than happy to debate "pop psychology with you.However I did notice that the bombers in the last episode were from middle class families and well educated educated.

For my own part,I don't tend to read Mystics of any type as they lack the authority necessary for deep debate.

Anonymous said...

Hi Glenn.

The shotgun impression you have is perhaps because there are two or three distinct conversations going on and I'm foolish enough to try and engage with all of them.

"The problem for any sane Westerner, does not lie with the guy next door who is Muslim;but with those who have infiltrated our immigration system with intent to do us harm."

There is simply no way to prevent that, at least in terms of focusing on the immigrants themselves, and doing so is unethical and can lead to terrible outcomes, as we saw recently in Christchurch.

The best proposal imo for minimising the potential for Islamist terrorism in the West is to stop interfering, militarily or otherwise, in the Middle East. Doing so has not only created the conditions for terrorism, in the case of Al Qaeda and ISIS it has directly created the terrorists themselves. There would be no Al Qaeda were it not for the US's involvement in overthrowing the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan (or the Soviet Union's invasion of the country in the first place) and there would be no ISIS were it not for the overthrow of Saddam, and the attempt to overthrow Bashar al-Assad in Syria, both of which lead to chaos and created the conditions and space in which terrorism could thrive. It is a hard pill to swallow, and it took me years to admit it, but Islamic terrorism in the West is almost entirely of our own making. We need to repent of our hubris, not focus on stirring up anti-immigrant sentiment.

"The Christian Western World has developed a political system and values about life and property, which has given us the society we have today."

Yes, and no. It is more accurate to say that the roots of the modern West are in the classical Pagan world, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Greek and Roman, as well as Christianity, and the Enlightenment. The West has many roots. Christianity is but one. Democracy for example has as much to do with influence of Pagan Athens and Republican Rome on Enlightenment thinkers, possibly more so than Christianity.

"SO PLEASE DO NOT BLAME ME FOR THE CRUSADES or anything else that the Kings of England or Europe may have done "

I was not blaming you, simply pointing out the fact that when it comes to killing in the name of God, Christianity has been in practice no different to Islam.

"and can not move beyond the 7th Cent."

That is inaccurate. Islam continued to develop well beyond 7th century in a variety of ways. The Islam of Moorish Spain was in many respects very different to the Islam of the 7th century, as was the Islam of the Ottoman Turks. Not to mention Sufi Islam. Islam as a whole has not been static. The fundamentalist varieties we see today, particularly the Salafist movement, are modern movements that have more in common with fundamentalist Christianity than they do with classical or Medieval Islam.

"For my own part,I don't tend to read Mystics of any type as they lack the authority necessary for deep debate."

As Bowman has noted I am deeply sceptical of claims to religious authority beyond the merely functional.



Peter Carrell said...

Dear Bryden
The smallest amount of common ground might just save us from (variously) Islamophobia, Christianophobia, killing each other, etc.

Otherwise: of course there is more!

Anonymous said...

Alas, Jean, I sent a reply to your 9:10 just before posting my 11:42 to Shawn, but it seems to have vanished. Since the court then trying the Other Topic is now in recess anyway, perhaps four thoughts will suffice until it is someday back in session. Replies, if desired, after June 16.

(1) + Peter's question is much more concrete than the answers being put to it. Our favourite preoccupations have little to do with the presenting problem.

(2) Insofar as common experiences matter to it, they are, not flights of the alone to the Alone, but the colouring that religions give to the milestones of most ordinary human life-spans. The experiences of say St John of the Cross and Al Ghazzali matter less than that of, for example, classmates memorizing the Quran or getting confirmed because that is what kids in their communities do in middle childhood.

(3) The public debate is closely analogous to the old one about whether Roman Catholics loyal to the pope can also be loyal citizens of a democratic republic. In the United States, that ended when John Courtney Murray SJ wrote an influential Catholic apology for the US Constitution, and a Catholic was elected President not long thereafter (1960); today, eight of nine justices of the United States Supreme Court are Catholic. The analogy suggests that what is most missing from debate is a robust and influential Muslim defense of the polities and societies of the West that explains why and how Muslims following some sort of Islam want to be citizens in them.

(4) There is no generally accepted theory of demographic succession in a democracy. Understandably, neither extreme of the political spectrum has been reasonable about the prospect of it.

BW

Anonymous said...

Some clarifications and a couple of points regarding issues raised by Bowman's last post, and one also by Bryden.

In suggesting human "mystical" experience of the Divine as a starting point, I am not saying that alone is sufficient. It must also include the things Bowman and +Peter have brought up, such as common Biblical roots, common practices such as prayer, alms giving, fasting and so forth. I would though suggest that direct human experience of the Divine is far more common than is generally thought, and is not confined to people we label mystics, or to extraordinary phenomena.

Bowman brings up a very good example with the issue of Catholics. There was a time when, in both the UK and the US, Catholicism was considered incompatible with Anglo-American political and cultural traditions, and Catholic immigration was considered a serious threat to those. Nobody apart from some very fringe nutters would make that claim today. The West is more robust than some people think, and the ability and willingness of new immigrant peoples to adapt and adopt underestimated. That said, it is incumbent on Western Islamic theologians to develop and promote an Islamic defence of liberal democracy. That is occurring.

The demographics issue, which in it's extreme form becomes the Great Replacement theory promoted by White supremacists, is not imo credible. It is based on misreading and distorting demographic changes. Even with the migrant crisis Muslims are not on their way to achieving anything like a majority in Europe, or even a large enough minority to achieve the "Islamification" some people fear. This is even more true in the US.

If there is a threat to the West it comes from within, not without. The political extremes of far-right nationalism and far left "woke" progressivism are much more likely to undermine liberal democracy than Islam is.

Jean said...

Hi Bowman

You are right I don’t address many concrete ideas in my comment above. I find your suggestion re: “The analogy suggests that what is most missing from debate is a robust and influential Muslim defense of the polities and societies of the West that explains why and how Muslims following some sort of Islam want to be citizens in them.“. A good one.

My reply in the first part was addressing Shawns emphasis on divine experiences as a commonality between all people religious or not. For me divine experience is intricately untwined with faith; as I was, perhaps not so well, trying to illustrate with an example of my own. I was not advocating for ‘flight of the alone to the alone’ more so along the lines of your previous comment regarding humility towards one own religion and “love of the object” leading to more confidence in discourse with others. In scripture speak (yes I do fall into the category of an inspired scripture person although not without context 😊), “I know in whom I have believed.”

As for my comment regarding kiwi’s embracing festivities of other faiths with blind acceptance, I wasn’t referring to the regular practice of religious adherents as such e.g. Friday prayers or for Buddhists bringing offerings for dead relatives. My reference was to a societal attitude that operating without knowledge of what is being participated in. Needless to say, in contrast most are very suspicious of Christianity. An easy example here is Diwali. In the cause of diversity even my bank ATM wishes me a “Happy Diwali” and yet I doubt few NZ’ers realise the origins of the Hindu festival as the worship of a god and goddess of wealth and intelligence. Will this prevailing societal attitude have relevance when it comes to dialogue between faiths? If not this it will unwittingly influence our society spiritually.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jean

The (1), (2), (3), and (4) of my 5:31 were general comments on the thread as a whole. The comments are interesting and enjoyable, but few are about the topic, which is urgent.

Like other religious postmoderns, we are still testing ways of thinking theologically and politically at the same time in societies after Christendom. The consolation for us is that the Body was all along meant to do this, and God has chosen us to begin it.

Your thoughts on scripture at 9:10 and especially at 10:42 seem to imply a direct answer to the big question-- maybe the Biggest Question too-- and I would not be surprised if + Peter took both up sometime after September 24.

Pentecost is approaching! :-)

BW