Posts Tagged ‘Islam’

For Christ and His Kingdom

If I were to say that Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer in Illinois, became the 16th President of the United States, had a beard, and signed the Emancipation Proclamation and another person said that Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation but never became president and a third group said that he was a lawyer in Nebraska, that he signed the Emancipation Proclamation but he was the Emperor of Canada and no Emperor would ever wear a beard, are we all speaking of the same person? We all agree that his name is Lincoln but beyond that the agreement gets rather thin.

In light of the suspension of Dr. Larycia Hawkins from Wheaton College for claiming that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, Miraslov Volf tweeted (amongst other things):

Read On…

Faith’s Replacement

This is a moving telling of the experience Muhammad when he first received the revelation of the Koran. He didn’t feel triumphant or exulted but he feared that he’d been possessed by a demon (a ‘djinn’ or ‘genie’) and considered throwing himself off the mountain to end it all. Hazelton says that Muhammad experienced doubt and this authenticates his experience even though she doubts that it was an experience with God.

Consider a similar experience that Peter, James, and John had with Jesus:

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. (Mark 9:2-6 ESV)

What a difference! They were “sore afraid” as the King James translates it but at the same time they didn’t want it to end. “Let us make three tents!” An authentic encounter with God does and should involve fear. We are fallen, sinful creatures and God remains utterly holy. But with Jesus present, the experience is different. We’re afraid because of the vastness, the holiness of God. The closest I have come to that is standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon. I was drawn to the edge and terrified at the same time.

Did the disciples doubt? Sure, but not at the revelation of Jesus as God. They doubted at the execution of the man Jesus. This experience with the divine was a point of surety for them.

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1:16-18 ESV)

Hazelton goes on to praise doubt and condemn fundamentalism in her talk. This is because she is an agnostic herself and therefore believes that doubt is the best we can achieve. Anyone who is sure of what they believe does not have faith, according to her. St. Peter would disagree.

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. (2 Peter 1:19-20 ESV)

What did Mohammad experience on that mountain top? I don’t know for sure, but I am convinced that it was not a genuine revelation from God. His experience, according to Hazelton, was fear and doubt. The angel visited him again and again and wrestled the revelation into and out of him.

Again, Peter says the revelation that is more sure than the transfiguration is different. “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21 ESV) Men were carried along, not forced and wrestled.

Doubt can be a friend to faith but not when it is embraced and coddled. At that point it becomes a replacement for faith.

1,000 Cuts

I heard this interview with Daveed Gartenstein-Ross on NPR last night and it keeps rattling around my mind. It is a short 4 minute interview, take a moment to listen:

Transcript here.

So basically, Al-Qaida’s strategy is to bankrupt the US by making security so expensive that it breaks the economy. I don’t know if that would work but it is at least making travel a huge pain. What got me scratching my head is, assuming that the plan would work, how do we fight against it? There isn’t a country to attack or assets to freeze. There is no large-scale invasion to repel, just a series of small attacks that make us continually ramp up security in more and more areas. Even if it doesn’t break the US economy it does slowly rob us of our freedom. So how do we respond?

Oddly enough, this morning the answer that made sense to me was the same answer I’ve been toying with as a response to the getting the middle class back to work, which is the REAL threat to the US economy. When the housing bubble burst, it weakened an already hobbled middle class. The money that should trickle down from the rich in the US is currently going to fund the blooming Chinese and Indian middle classes. The Tea Party keeps talking about cutting taxes and the President keeps talking about education and infrastructure and in my mind neither one of these answers the question: how do we get the middle class back to work?

So where does fighting Al-Qaida and employing our middle class come together? Green technology. Whether you’re Al Gore or a climate change denier you have to admit that the rest of the world is very excited about the climate. According to Gartenstein-Ross, Al-Qaida will not touch global oil production because they want to use that revenue stream to fund the (theoretically) coming global Islamic caliphate. So what would happen if the US became the world leader in creating and producing green technology? We could employ many in our middle class from engineers designing it to blue collar workers producing it and export it to the world. We would have to be careful to not export the production (again) but I believe there is a worldwide market for green technology that actually works.

At the same time, green technology would help us ween ourselves from our oil addiction. This would change global economic dynamics and serve to un-fund the potential caliphate. What else does the Middle East have to export? Sand. This could be demoralizing to Al-Qaida and their potential recruits. Also, there is a general suspicion that some of the oil money that goes to Middle Eastern nations winds up in terrorist hands. If we can diminish our demand for that oil it would being to remove those funds as well.

Seems like a win-win to me. Like I said, you don’t have to buy the global warming argument to see the benefit of this approach. Now, if only we heard a presidential candidate or a political party think along these lines instead of either supporting or opposing unions and taxes in order to be re/elected.

Bible: Thoroughly Human, Thoroughly Divine

I’m going to use a comic book reference to make a point. If you’re not a comic book kind of person, just stick with me for a moment, I think it will be worth it.

Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Firefly and most recently Dollhouse but my favorite is Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blogthinks he knows why DC Comics tank but Marvel’s do pretty well these days. Here’s how it is summarized:

“Because, with that one big exception (Batman), DC’s heroes are from a different era. They’re from the era when they were creating gods.” Whedon explains to Maxim that DC’s characters, like Wonder Woman, Superman and Green Lantern, were “all very much removed from humanity.”

From Whedon’s perspective, the stories that succeed these days are those that are more human than superhuman. We don’t want to hear about people who are not like us. People who don’t have problems. We don’t want Greek gods anymore, we’re more interested in special humans. Midas over Hercules.

When Mohammad received the Koran, an angel came and forced it upon him. Mohammad dictated the Koran from Allah. He would sit in a cave and the angel would come upon him and he’d start talking. His friends with him would write down what he said on whatever they had at hand. Skins, clothing, bone fragments, whatever. When Allah’s word came, it came.  Later these writings were gathered together and put on paper.

Wait, come back! I’ve actually got a point to make here! Honest and I’m about to make it now.

The Christian Bible is a thoroughly human document and a thoroughly divine document. Here’s how Peter put it:

For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. – 2Pt 1:21

First, the context of 2Pt 1 is bigger than just oral prophecy, it includes the scriptures as well. Next, notice he says. “Men spoke.” Man. Humans. People spoke, people wrote. They didn’t repeat what they’d heard. They spoke. The Bible is a human document. It is written by people, in their time and culture, from the personal perspective, in the language they spoke.

At the same time, these men spoke “by the Holy Spirit.” The Bible is also a divine document. These folks didn’t write just any old thing, they were “carried along” in their speaking and writing by God. God had them speak what he wanted them to say because prophecy is never generated by human will.

We need to keep the two together, the human and the divine. Does that sound familiar? It should, we have that same struggle with the person of Jesus. His is 100% human (minus sin) and 100% divine and he is the Word (Jn 1). God’s word is like that too.

So what does this have to do with Joss Whedon and the Koran? To me the fact that the Bible is a human document as well as divine makes it much more appealing. More personal. God didn’t drop it from the sky or force the words out of a prophet’s mouth. As he was writing history, he was also writing his word in history. Men spoke as the Spirit carried them along.  In Jesus, God entered time and walked in our sandels, felt our pain and disappointment, he can “sympathize with our weaknesses” because he “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15). His word isn’t removed from our difficulty and disappointment and struggle either. Job speaks honestly from his pain and confusion. Jeremiah laments with real tears and is really heartbroken. Solomon is sincere when he looks back upon a life wasted in self-satisfaction in Eccelsiasties.  Solomon also experience real romantic love and desire for his wife in Song of Songs.

Were God to drop his word into our world, etched on a onyx stone in a language so unlike ours, we’d worship the stone rather than listen to the words. The medium would eclipse the message. Instead, God speaks in such common forms that we’re left with nothing but the message to heed. It is comforting to me that the Bible is a human as well as a divine document. It doesn’t lead me to doubt its trustworthiness because human’s wrote it. It shows how intimately God is involved in his creation, not distant from it.