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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Sermon 2008

Here is the text of today's Easter sermon. We played this song for our meditation. Here are the lyrics.

All I Need to Hear
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
March 23, 2008
Easter Sunday

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory….

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
Colossians 3:1-4; 12-15


Have you noticed that Easter is early this year? Here is some fun trivia to take home. The earliest Easter can occur is March 22nd. That happened most recently in 1818 when James Monroe was president. It will happen again in 2285, when George Bush X becomes president. We will never see an earlier Easter than this one today.

Those of us who are at least 95 years old might have celebrated Easter on March 23rd, 1913 just 19 days after the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson. Easter will not fall on March 23rd again until 2228, 220 years from now. There you go, not only is Easter early, it is the earliest we will experience it this side of that heavenly shore.

It is those little bits of trivia that keep folks coming back to First Pres. We are nothing if not trivial.

Easter is a big day for the church. It is such a big day that the all the other Sundays are called “Little Easters.” For the church, Easter is bigger than Christmas. It is the day in which we celebrate the mystery of Resurrection. Notice I said mystery of Resurrection as opposed to fact of Resurrection.

We modern folks like facts almost as much as we like trivia. Did this happen? Did this not happen? What are the facts? The problem with religious symbols such as Resurrection is that they are not fact-friendly.

I would say that I trust in the mystery of Resurrection rather than say I believe in the fact of the Resurrection. I think it is important to make that distinction because we can get caught up trivia. Trust in the mystery of Resurrection is far more complex and difficult than belief or unbelief in the fact of Resurrection. Believing or not believing in the fact of something is a mental activity. Trust or lack of trust in something is a way of life. Trust demands more from me and gives more to me than belief. I can believe things about you, but to say I trust you requires a monumental shift. It is a risk. It is a relationship.

Trust is not always consistent. When I say I trust in the mystery of the Resurrection, I need to be honest, and say I often do not trust. In fact, if the cards were down, and I was fully honest, I would have to admit that I am far less trusting than I think I am or pretend to be.

Why? Because I want things my way. I want to be in control. To trust makes me vulnerable. Trust is the act of allowing someone or something else to have a say. When I engage in trust I give up my power for shared power. It is a risk. It may not work the way I want it to work.

Trust is the opposite of control. When we say the word trust, our arms open. We are vulnerable and able to receive. When we say the word control, our arms close in, we tense. We want to keep what we have and keep others out. Trust is a giving and a receiving.

Two forces are at work within me. One seeks control of the situation, the other trusts. If I am not aware of what is happening, I generally seek to control. But if I do remember to be aware, I can step back and allow others to participate. Trusting doesn’t mean I don’t participate, I do. Trust means I don’t need to control the outcome. Trust is accepting that even though I don’t know how it will work out and even though it may not work out the way I originally planned, it may work out beyond my expectations when others participate with me in the process.

I would have to say that from experience, trust works better than control. So why don’t I trust more and control less? That is a mystery. I get afraid and I spin wheels thinking or calculating and before you know it, I am controlling. I like to think I am learning and growing regarding that. Or at least I am remembering that I have a choice.

What does this have to do with Resurrection? I can do a couple of things regarding the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I can treat it as a belief, which is a form of control. I can believe it or not believe it. Then call it a day. I have controlled the issue. I have turned it into an historical fact that I can either affirm or deny.

Or I can treat it as an act of trust.

16th century Reformer Martin Luther said: Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.”

Resurrection is a symbol of death and rebirth. The sun sets and rises. The caterpillar enters its chrysalis to emerge as a butterfly. The ground rests in the winter and sprouts forth life in the spring. Our evolutionary history has shown us that species of life die and new ones form. Stars are born, die, and from their debris, new stars form. We go to sleep at night and wake in the morning. The pattern of death and rebirth is all around us. Trusting in the resurrection can be as simple as appreciating and trusting in the cycle of nature.

I have been born. I will die. What will come after I trust in forces beyond myself.

We know that before Jesus were many stories of individuals, whether they be gods or human beings, who died and were resurrected. Osiris, Dionysius, Odin, Vishnu, Bacchus, Phoenix, Tammuz, Baal, and many others from different times in different places and cultures.

The symbol of dying and rising is a symbol that is deep in our collective human consciousness. These stories are not just stories, they point to a reality of how the universe works.

Trusting in the Resurrection of Jesus can be the act of trust in the power of a story that is shared across civilizations that points to the mystery of death and rebirth.

Even though there is a commonality between these stories, there is a particularity to each story. The resurrection of Jesus is particular in an interesting way. Some apologists have argued that while all the other stories of resurrection are myths, Jesus’ resurrection really happened. It is historical. Believe it.

I think that is an interpretation based on control. If the church approached its own story and the stories of others with an attitude of trust it would have something good to offer. Because much of Christian theology approaches its story as true as opposed to others that are false, it misses its opportunity to share what is healing and powerful about its story as well as appreciating what is healing and powerful about others’ stories.

When I say the story of the death and resurrection of Christ is particular, that does not mean it is better or worse, or more true or less true, than other stories. We are all particular human beings. Our particularity does not make us better or worse, more true or less true than others; it simply means that we have something to offer and to receive from others.

Here is one thing I think Christianity could bring to the table if it was humble enough to sit around a table. I owe what I am about to say to a number of scholars of Christian origins, most notably John Dominic Crossan.

The story of Jesus Christ is rooted in an historical time and place. Its story formed over a period of four centuries. The setting is the occupation of Palestine by the Roman Empire.

Jesus as we read him in the gospels was executed by the Roman Empire with assistance from the Jewish temple authorities. He didn’t die of the flu or of old age. According to the story, he was executed by established authority as a criminal and as a threat to the peace. His resurrection has no meaning outside of his crucifixion. His crucifixion has no meaning outside of his resurrection.

Rome was not an evil empire. Crossan calls it the “normalcy of civilization.” Rome kept peace and kept the economy going. As Lenin said to justify the killings of Russian citizens to make the communist state: “If you are going to make an omelet you have to break a few eggs.”

There were eggs that needed breaking to bring Roman peace to Palestine. They broke these eggs through crucifixion. Thousands of people were crucified. Usually, petty criminals and slaves as an example. The crucifixions were public so people would get the message: Don’t do what this one did, or you will end up like this one. It was state sponsored terrorism.

Jesus was one of thousands. He was in the way. He was in the wrong place. He got above his raisin’. He threatened the peace. As his story is told in the Gospels he represented anyone who was ever crucified by Rome. The title most often given to Jesus in the gospels is the son of the man—it means the human being. Jesus is everyman. Not just everyman, everyman who was crushed by Rome’s wheel. He represented the poor and the suffering. He represented the collateral damage of Rome’s expansion. He was another egg that needed breaking for civilization to progress.

We could end the story right there. It is a story that happens all the time to this day.

A recent poll has determined that a million Iraqis have died due to the war. The normalcy of civilization says: “That is unfortunate, but we are making progress.”

The people of Tibet die and lose their freedom and their country and the normalcy of civilization says: “We grieve over the deaths, but we are making progress.”

The story of Jesus could have ended there. We are sorry for Jesus, but we are making progress. But the story didn’t end there. I don’t know how it happened. But his story became the focal point of a larger story that built around him. It grew. People began to tell each other: Rome doesn’t get the last word this time. Whether those who had the original idea had a spiritual experience, I don’t know. But people began to tell each other that God raised Jesus from the dead. The one that Rome executed, God raised. The Resurrection is God’s yes to Rome’s no.

The history of the church shows us that that story was bought and sold, tamed and distorted. The normalcy of civilization turned it into a way of controlling people through threats of hell and rewards of heaven. The Resurrection changed from a mystery to trust to a fact to be believed.

And yet, we still have echoes of the story’s transforming power in the gospels themselves. Despite the normalcy of the institution and of civilizations, people throughout our history to this day have found hope and power to say no to violence and injustice and yes to sharing, peace, and cooperation.

This is the opinion of one preacher. This is the way I see it. I have no corner on the truth. There certainly is much more to be said about the mysteries of Christianity and the mysteries of others’ stories. But I do think that this interpretation of the Resurrection is a valid one. I think it can be a life-transforming interpretation. I think it can be a way for Christian communities today to find the spiritual energy and hope to engage a world that is beset with violence and the desire to control.

For me, to trust in the mystery of the Resurrection, particularly, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, is to trust in the shared power of non-violent change. That is a Divine power. It is to die to the old way of control and to be raised in the new way of trust.

The author of Colossians wrote: “So if you have been raised with Christ…” then…

“…As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.

That doesn’t sound like powerful, normalcy of civilization language. It isn’t. It is the language of trust. Don’t let the soft words fool you. They are the words of shared power that no power of violence can destroy.

When I titled this sermon “All I Need to Hear” I was thinking about the song we heard in our meditation, “Wanting Memories.” I was thinking of this stanza:

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me,
to see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I thought that you were gone, but now I know you're with me,
You are the voice that whispers all I need to hear.

That is the presence of the Risen Christ. With us. Present. Alive. If we trust, we will hear his voice.

70 comments:

Harry said...

Hey John!

You skipped over the part about wives obeying their husbands and slaves obeying their masters.

The passage reads differently in context.

FranIAm said...

I have read this in my reader a few times now and have finally come back to comment.

The problem is - I have so few words but so many feelings about what you have said.

Trust in the mystery... That's all I can really focus on right now and probably what I need to be focusing on.

Thank you John and Easter joy to you.

John Shuck said...

Thanks Fran! Happy week after Easter!

Rob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Flycandler said...

Nicely put, John!


Now, duck.

Rob said...

Is faith--the supreme assertion of human thought--desirable? Then must the mind of man find itself in that troublesome predicament where it ever knows less than it can believe.

I like your sermon John; trust is more than belief. We were not there to witness the resurrection of Jesus, so we cannot intellectually know if it was a story evolved by the early followers of Jesus (modern scholarship) or an actual experience with the risen Christ. Unless we have had an experience, so-to-speak, with Christ on the Damascus road, we can only trust, have faith, and leave the rest to God.

To make belief, whether in the divinity of Christ or his resurrection, the litmus test of faith is to miss his kingdom message, his real gospel, which leads us to the water of life.

Grace said...

But, Rob, apart from the divinity of Christ, we aren't all speaking of the same Jesus, or the same gospel. Who, or what are we trusting??

I think it's important to be honest and real with each other here. We can all have our personal opinion, but the witness of the church is what it is.

There is a difference between the affimation of the unitarians, and the affirmation of the ELCA, or the Presbyterian, Episcopal churches.

Are you able to see this?

Rob said...

Apart from the divinity of Christ, we aren't all speaking of the same Jesus, or the same gospel.

Thats right Grace; we are not speaking about the same thing. You insist on the gospel about Jesus as does most of conservative evangelical Christianity as the article of belief required to be a Christian and saved. This is utter hogwash and was not what Jesus taught. There, is that plain enough ;-)

The gospel of Jesus was about how we by faith enter into what he called in his day the kingdom of God, which he then described as a faith relationship with God his Father and our Father.

His message was theocentric; evangelical conservative Christianity is christocentric.

And I am reminded of Jesus own words that many shall say "Lord, Lord, but shall not enter the kingdom of heaven," so beliefs about Jesus are clearly not the litmus test of entrance into the kingdom.

Plin speaking enough for you Grace?

Rob said...

the witness of the church is what it is.

Yes, Grace, and the Pharisees said they had the teachings of Moses, and both have their false comfort in a religion of authority based upon intellectual propostions and beliefs.

Jesus' religion was a living religion of a life dedicated to the doing of the will of God. It was a never ending progressive realization of truty, beauty, and goodness, not a stagnant set of propositions like you keep trying to contain true religion within Grace.

Again, plain speaking enough ;-)

Grace said...

Waaiit.. a minute here, Rob. Who says that I'm just affirming this stagnant set of propositions?

In Him, Jesus the Messiah, the kingdom of God was certainly at hand. And, a relationship with Him certainly affects how we are going to live our lives.

But, didn't Jesus also affirm that He came to give His life a ransom for many, and encourage folks to come to Him for rest. What was He talking about? What are we affirming everytime we celebrate holy communion together?

I just think I'm being falsely accused.

Mystical Seeker said...

I think Rob hit the nail on the head. Grace's rigid, propositionally based conception of faith is exactly the kind of faith that Jesus rejected. This is the irony--those "true believers" who claim to be the only legitimate inheritors of the Christian faith are precisely advocating a kind of religion that Jesus opposed. How it is that Christianity got turned inside out in this manner is an interesting question.

FranIAm said...

Hi John- I have written a post that I would love for you to see.

It is long, so if you can't no problem.

Others welcome too. It is a bit provocative as well as long!

John Shuck said...

Fran,

I checked out your post, love it! Will comment there!

Rob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob said...

Yes, Grace, you most certainly are espousing a “stagnant set of propositions” as the litmus test of living faith. Let us be perfectly explicit how we differ in our understanding of Jesus and his teachings Grace, shall we?

Grace, you claim (unless you explicitly state otherwise) what one believes (i.e., propositional statements) about Jesus determines how one lives their life; I don’t agree. Someone can believe “Jesus is the Messiah” (a claim he did not make about himself) and not enter the kingdom of heaven. In this you are repeating stagnant theological propositions.

The Christological speculations that have dominated Christian thought and Christianity's understanding of itself and its task have no counterpart in the thought of Jesus.... His relation to the Father is simply and plainly religious, the difficult matter of learning and performing the divine will.... [H]e never conceived of a religion that hinged wholly and solely upon theoretical conceptions of his person, their acceptance or rejection.... He sets no Christological confessions as necessary conditions for participation in the kingdom. He even warns his disciples against too exclusive attachment to his person as a dangerous self-delusion:

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but het that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matt. 7:21) (Bundy 1928: 262-263)

And a modern Christianity that interprets its experience and its task solely in the light of orthodox conceptions and confessions concerning Jesus' person is treading upon treacherous ground.
(Bundy, The Religion of Jesus, 1928: 263)

It is one thing to believe Jesus was divine (a fact); another to do as he teaches and live by faith discerning and doing the will of God and loving and serving one’s neighbors (living truth). One is a propositional belief (intellectual fact); the other is a living experience in which one is vitally connected with living spiritual reality, and part of the living vine, yielding abundant fruits of the spirit; living truth. And after all, we shall know them by their fruits. So, I would argue, a Muslim or Buddhist how bears the living fruits of the spirit is connected with the living spiritual vine, regardless of what name or theological framework they happen to envision that living spiritual relationship within.

Beware Grace, one can be technically right as to fact and everlastingly wrong in the truth.

And when we see resurrection on high (if it is more than mere metaphor, which I believe it is) than Muslim, Buddhist, and Christian alike will hardly bother to bicker over theology as we all will be to overwhelmed with joy and shock at having woken up at all!

In otherwords Grace, who gets into the kingdom of heaven is not determined by what one believes but by whether one actually lives by Jesus' commandments, which are the two greatest commandments to love God and love and serve one's fellows.

Craig said...

Rob,

Could you please point me to where Jesus said that we get into heaven by what we do. I've only read that we get in based on what He did. If you have evidence to the contrary I'd be interested to consider it.

Just to be clear; are you saying that Allah as portrayed in the Koran, and the nothingness a Bhuddist (a non-theistic religion)strives for, are the same as the God that is revealed through the Bible?

It seems starnge that the same God would reveal Himself through such contradictory means.

Rob said...

Could you please point me to where Jesus said that we get into heaven by what we do.

Hi Craig,

That is not what I said, nor what Jesus taught.

While we enter into the kingdom by faith and grace alone, we are expected to yield the fruits of the spirit and grow in that grace, which of course is a combination of mature and discerning choices between right and wrong, and it is God’s grace that gives us the wisdom to know the difference. To claim “Lord, Lord,” yet not yield the fruits of the spirit is indeed to be a dead branch on the vine which is only good to be pruned. Faith without the fruits of the spirit is dead.

Salvation is by the regeneration of the spirit and not by the self-righteous deeds of the flesh. We are justified by faith and fellowshipped by grace. When you know that you are saved by faith, you have real peace with God. And all who follow in the way of this heavenly peace are destined to be sanctified to the eternal service of the ever-advancing sons of the eternal God.

Do you not know that when truly does the two greatest commandments that Jesus teaches us, to love God with all one’s heart, this naturally leads to that regeneration of the spirit that spontaneously overflows into the second commandment to love one’s neighbor.

Have you not read:

But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:20)

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:26)

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also. (1 John 4:20-21)

We do well to be meek before God and self-controlled before men, but let our meekness be of spiritual origin and not the self-deceptive display of a self-conscious sense of self-righteous superiority.

You say:

I've only read that we get in based on what He did.

I assume by this you mean the atonement doctrine, which is an insult to God in my view, and represents a selfish concern for one's salvation, and is a narrow and distorted view of his own teachings imposed by the early church upon Christianity that does not take origin in his own teachings.

Jesus showed us the way with his life, and was the manner and spirit of how he lived, even in the face of such a horrible and unjust death, that is the full revelation of his and the Father's love for us. He taught us to love our enemies, and then he did just that, praying upon the cross, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Yes, I am saying Muslims worship the same God; you clearly know little of Buddhism is you think that the only school of thought within Buddhism is "non-theistic."

By rejecting the polytheism inherent in earlier Buddhism and focusing on a single buddha, sutra, or practice for salvation, the new sects introduced the first monotheistic beliefs in Japan's religious history.

(Kasahara, Kazuo, Editor. A History of Japanese Religion. Tokyo: Kosei Publishing Co.; 2001; c2001 p. 158.)

Pure Land Buddhism, or Shin Buddhism, most certainly has a personal God concept.

Rob said...

Just to be clear; are you saying that Allah as portrayed in the Koran, and the nothingness a Bhuddist (a non-theistic religion)strives for, are the same as the God that is revealed through the Bible?

Conservative evangelical Christians, unlike many of their Muslim and Buddhist brothers and sisters, are quick to to tell them they are not going to heaven because they do not have right theological beliefs about the person of Jesus. Yet, I suppose even in this form of theological stingyness, they would allow that Muslims and Buddhists would equate with what in Jesus' day and age was called the gentiles.

Yet, Paul, whose teachings many of these same conservative evangelical Christians believe are the gospel of Jesus, are apparently ignorant of his own teachings that make plain that even a gentile can have the law (i.e., compassion and wisdom) of God written upon their heart.

For God truly is no respector of persons and will render to every many, from east or west, according to his deeds (and we are not talking about self-righteous deeds here) (Rom.2.6), such as those who "patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour" of God alone, who honor the truth and choose righteousness over error, who work for the good of all men and women unselfishly.

For Paul said clearly, "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness." (Rom.2.15-15)

And Jesus' parable of judgment day, when he separates the goat from the sheep, bears witness to this truth, in that he does not ask, "Did you believe I was the Messiah," but rather asks, "Did you feed the hungry, and clothe the naked."

Mystical Seeker said...

I would suggest that the revelation of God in the Bible is not very internally consistent, so the consistency argument against religious pluralism doesn't really make sense to me. Since the Bible gives all sorts of images of God anyway, then I really don't see the problem with extending that diversity of images across multiple faith traditions. Another way of putting it is to suggest that the Bible is not God's self-revelation, but rather a record of people trying to make sense of God's revelation. Thus we have the biblical contradictions, the evolving theologies, and so forth. And if people from one Middle Eastern culture try to make sense of God through the lens of their own traditions and history and specific circumstances, then the same can apply across multiple religions.

As one example of what I am talking about, consider the spectrum of Biblical theologies concerning tribalism versus universality. The Bible spans pretty much across the spectrum. Sometimes, according to the book of Joshua, this Yahweh character is a genocidal maniac whose tribalism is so extreme that he orders people to commit ethnic cleansing (that is to say, genocide.) Yet this same Yahweh is reported to have said in Leviticus 19:33-34 that "you shall not oppress the alien" and "you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt." Hard to believe that this is the same God. And the early tribalism of Yahweh before the Babylonian exile was even more removed from the universal God of Second Isaiah.

Or, to cite another example, consider theodicy. Many of the Proverbs suggest that a prosperous and happy life happens to people who do good things. Ecclesiastes, on the other hand, suggests that there is absolutely no correlation between the good one does and one's lot in life. Oh yes, and then there's the book of Job, which has its own take on theodicy.

So if the Bible is not internally consistent about God and God's nature, then maybe the issue is not how God reveals him/herself, but how finite humans perceive God's ineffable, infinite presence in the context of their culture, time, and circumstances.

Also, I will note that the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25 clearly expresses the notion that people will be saved based on their deeds; what is interesting about that parable is that it says nothing about what theological propositions one subscribes to. Instead, it bases everything on whether one feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, takes care of the sick, and so forth.

Rob said...

You might enjoy Paul Knitter's essay on this topic.

Much of what you say is included in the following, which I read when I was sixteen years old:

THE TALK WITH NATHANIEL.

Craig said...

Rob,

Forgive me for assuming that the following quote would lead me to believe that getting itno heaven is not about what you do.

"In otherwords Grace, who gets into the kingdom of heaven is NOT determined by what one believes but BY WHETHER ONE ACTUALLY LIVES BY JESUS COMMANDMENTS,..."

Sorry sounds like what we do, gets us in.

Sorry you brought up the whole "who gets to heaven" not I.

You might do well to respond to what I actually wrote, rather than try to read into my response something that is not there.

Your comments on "salvation" seem a little inchoherent, and who in the world are the "ever-advancing sons of the eternal God"? Are you advocating the doctrine found in the gospel of Thomas, that one must be male to enter the Kingdom?

If muslims worship the same god, why would you suppose that he "revealed" himself in a manner that not only contradicts the Biblical witness, but that actually sets himself against himself. It seems counterintuitive, although He certainly could if He was so moved.

My comment on Bhuddism was not intended to be a treatise on the different varieties of Bhuddist thought, simply a question as to why you would assert that a non-theistic Bhuddist would worship the same God as a theistic Christian, Jew, Muslim, or Hindu? The fact that you actually didn't answer the question I posed speaks volumes.

Obviously, all non Jews would fall into the category of Gentiles. Nowhere did Paul say that the path to salvation/heaven goes anywhere but through Christ. Yes, it is clearly taught that ALL have the light of creation, that points to God, and that all have the light of consience written on their hearts. It does not follow that that is all that is necessary for salvation. Nor does Paul teach that.

If you look at several other parables (The Prodigal Son, the Sower of seeds etc.) it indicates something different.

Mystical Seeker said " Matthew 25 clearly expresses the notion that people will be saved based on their deeds" I eagerly await your correction of his erronious beliefs.

Seeker,

Instead of taking time to deal with your post. I am going to suggest that you take a look at the recent book by Dr Greg Boyd, and Dr Paul Eddy. (The Jesus Legend) they do a much better job of answering your points than I could do trying to summarize their research.

As to the sheeep/goats, see above. Also read Rob's post. If the sheep/goats parable was the only one Jesus told, you might have a point, but it's not.

Rob (again) you might enjoy the Boyd/Eddy book, it's based on more recent scholarship. I would be happy to give you some other suggestions if you are interested.

Mystical Seeker said...

If muslims worship the same god, why would you suppose that he "revealed" himself in a manner that not only contradicts the Biblical witness, but that actually sets himself against himself.

I already responded to that point. The Bible itself presents a contradictory "witness" of who God is. Therefore, the assumption that lies behind your question is faulty. If the images of God within a religious tradition contradict themselves, then it is hardly problematic for God's image to be exhibit differences across religious traditions.

Mystical Seeker said " Matthew 25 clearly expresses the notion that people will be saved based on their deeds" I eagerly await your correction of his erronious beliefs.

Nothing to correct. Matthew 25 says what it says--that people get into heaven on the basis of their deeds, rather than the theological propositions they claim to affirm. Your argument is that other parables say different things than what that parable does. Wow, imagine that--the Bible contradicting itself! Who'd a thunk. I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked!

Instead of taking time to deal with your post. I am going to suggest that you take a look at the recent book by Dr Greg Boyd, and Dr Paul Eddy.

As John Shuck would say, "I won't do your homework for you." If you can't summarize your own arguments here, then that is your problem, not mine.

Craig said...

MS,

I'm glad to know that you have elevated Matthew 25 to some kind of primacy. That is truly a new one.

However, had you read the posts you would see that your arguement is clearly with Rob, who confidently asserted (or maybe not) that our deeds do NOT get us into heaven. I have made no assertions either way.

I also assume that your view that the Bible presents "contradictory witness" measn that you would hold that your god is a one dimensional being. While you did respond to the point the question was directed at Rob, and based on his earlier post. While your response was a response, it really did not fit within the framework of the "conversation". So, while I appreciate you response, I find your presuppositions limiting to any kind of reasoned discourse.

I was not suggesting that you do my homework for me, quite the opposite. I was suggesting that it might be interesting for you to avail yourself of some recent scholarship which you might find interesting. Dr's Boyd and Eddy, are engaging authors and (as I stated earlier) have capably and interestingly addressed your assertions. I see no reason to invest the time to paraphrase their work for you, or to try to reinvent the wheel, when, you could read it yourself if you were inclined. My feeling, based on admittedly limited impressions of you, is that you would reject their scholaship out of hand, before giving it an unbiased reading, so why waste both of our time here.

In short, I can summarize the arguments here, I choose not to. There is a difference.

Jesus said "I am the ressurrection and the life, anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever believes by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this." John 10:25

"Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6

I don't see any reference to deeds.

"39One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"

40But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."

42Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.[f]"

43Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

Luke 23:39-43

Are you saying that the thief was able to do some good deeds before he died, or that Jesus was contradicting himself.

No fair, playing the "Jesus didn't say this" card. If you expect me to accept that Jesus told the sheep/goats parable, then you need to accept the accuracy of these quotes as well.

BTW: I may have problems, but this certainly isn't one of them.

Rob said...
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Rob said...

Craig,

I think Knitter would characterize your views as falling into the traditional conservative, neo-conservative, and evangelical Protestant views of Christianity. Typical of this kind of exclusivist theology is the idea that while those in other religions have "light of creation" such living faith that yields the fruits of love, wisdom, and compassion and lives of unselfish service to their fellows, lives filled with grace which and worship of God, is not enough because they don't hold the correct theological beliefs about Jesus. There is nothing new here, as it is the same old stale, narrow, exclusivist theology espoused by evangelical Christianity.

I think Wilfred Cantwell Smith speaks to this issue well:

It is morally not possible actually to go out into the world and say to devout, intelligent, fellow human beings "We are saved and you are damned;" or, "We believe that we know God, and we are right; you believe that you know God, and you are altogether wrong."

This is deplorable from merely human standards. It is doubly so from Christian ones. Any position that antagonizes and alienates rather than reconciles, that is arrogant rather than humble, that promotes segregation rather than fellowship, that is unlovely, is ipso facto un-Christian.

There is a further point at which the traditional position seems to me morally un-Christian. From the notion that if Christianity is true, then other religions must be false ..., it is possible to go on to the converse proposition that if anyone else's faith turns out to be valid or adequate or divinely given, then it would follow that Christianity must be false -- a form of logic that has, in fact, driven many from their own faith, and indeed from any faith at all. If one's chances of getting to Heaven -- or to use a nowadays more acceptable metaphor, of coming into God's presence -- are dependent upon other people's not getting there, then one becomes walled up within quite intolerable position that the Christian has a vested interest in other people's damnation. When an observer comes back from Asia, or from a study of Asian religious traditions, and reports that, contrary to accepted theory, some Hindus and Buddhists and some Muslims lead a pious and moral life, and seem very near to God by any possible standard, so that, so far as one can see, in these particular cases at least, faith is as genuine as Christian faith, then presumably a Christian should be overjoyed, enthusiastically hopeful that this be true, even though he or she might be permitted a fear lest it might not be so. Instead, I have sometimes witnessed just the opposite an emotional resistance to the news, persons hoping firmly that it is not so, though perhaps with a covert fear that it might be. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation theoretically, I submit that in practice this is just not Christian, and indeed is not tolerable. It will not do, to have a faith that can be undermined by God's saving one's neighbor; or to be afraid lest other persons turn out to be closer to God than one had been led to suppose. (Smith, Wilfred Cantwell. Patterns of Faith Around the World. Oxford: Oneworld Publications; 1998; p. 135-136.)

Sorry ladies, I meant to say "sons and daughter of God," no slight intended.

To clarify, it is my view we enter the kingdom of heaven by faith, and faith alone, but we are expected to grow in grace and yield the mature fruits of the spirit.

And scripture plainly tell us, contrary to some exclusivist interpretations, that "God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life." (Rom.2.6-7) Hey, that is exactly what the Qur'an teaches too!

Craig said...

Rob,

First, I find it interesting that you chose to respond to what Jesus said with what a man said, but anyway. If we assume that the Matt 25 parable (sheep/goats only, we'll ignore the others for now) is the lynchpin of your theology, then you must be be comfortable with the "same old stale, narrow, exclusivist theology espoused by" Matthew 25. The parable clearly teaches that not all will enter the kingdom of heaven. Not only that, but it also clearly teaches that those who enter wil do so based on the works they perform, that appearantly only God knows the magic combination that will get you in.

So in your narrow interpretaion (1 parable) vs. the balance of the NT, the question is not exclusivist v. non-exclusivist, it's merely what is the basis for exclusion.

I for one am willing to believe that the thief on the cross made it in despite being unable to do the "right" things.

As to the charge that I am a am espousing a fairly mainstream version of the Christian faith that has been historically within the pale of orthodoxy, yes I'm guilty. However, you are certainly misrepresenting my views. First crucial point ALL people have acces to the light of creation/light of conscience. However, my only contention is that these "lights" are merely reflections of the Light of the World. One could also put it like this, those lights simply point to Jesus. Second crucial point only PEOPLE are able to see/respond to the light they are given. RELIGIONS are not. Religions are simply man made expressions of the inborn desire for God. (Lewis's God shaped hole) Religions do not save or damn, people do not save or damn, only God has the ability, perogative, and standing to make that descision. I am perfectly willing to allow him to do so. I have no desire to do otherwise.

To clarify my view, I believe that we enter the Kingdom of God by God's grace alone. The response to that grace is faith, which then is demonstrated through our growth in maturity, spiritual gifts and the fruits of the Spitit.

In regards to your view, why are you so narrowly focused on what you need to do to get into heaven. WHy not focus on the Kingdon of God "on earth as it is in heaven". Also, your reply begs the question; faith in who or what? What causes you to have faith in that being?

Finally, I have no problem with God giving to each person according to what he has done. As long as it is consistant. God will give reward (indeed degrees of reward) to those whom he greets "well done good and faithful servant", in the same manner God will also give punishment (indeed degrees of punishment) to those to who he says "depart from Me, I never knew you". I agree that that is clearly taught in scripture. As to whether it is taught that way in the Koran (in the absence of any kind of citation from you), I will ask some of my Ethopian muslim friends how they see it. I'll let you know what they think.

You might want to read my reply to MS as well, for some additional Jesus sayings. You also might want to correct MS's erroneous belief that we get into heaven based on works.

Mystical Seeker said...
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Mystical Seeker said...

I'm glad to know that you have elevated Matthew 25 to some kind of primacy. That is truly a new one.

Au contraire. I don't even believe in an afterlife, or at best I consider the question irrelevant, so the question of who gets into heaven is a non-issue as far as I am concerned. You asked Rob for an example of a biblical passage where Jesus is said to have asserted that it is our deeds rather than our beliefs that determine whether we get to heaven. I gladly offered an example, namely Matthew 25.

As I said in my earlier comment, "Your argument is that other parables say different things than what that parable does. Wow, imagine that--the Bible contradicting itself! Who'd a thunk. I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked!" So in response to this, you turn around anyway and offer passages that you think offer a theology in contradistinction to what Matthew 25 offers--which diverts attention from what Matthew 25 says, and in fact has no bearing on what Matthew 25 says. Whether or not other passages give an opposing theology has nothing to do with the fact that Matthew 25 gives its own take on who gets into heaven, and it clearly has to do with one's actions.

None of this presents any problem to anyone who doesn't feel a compelling need to try to harmonize diverse passages from different authors written at different times, reflecting different issues, times, and cultural contexts, and also reflecting the theological biases of the authors themselves. The Bible is often wrong about a lot of things. It often contradicts itself; it often gives different and inconsistent images of God's nature. So, yet once again, I will repeat this point: given that the Bible is internally inconsistent about how it presents God, then there should be no problem with any inconsistencies int he way God is presented across multiple religions.

Mystical Seeker said...

You also might want to correct MS's erroneous belief that we get into heaven based on works.

I never said that we get into heaven based on works. I'm not sure where you got that impression from. I have absolutely no interest in the question of an afterlife whatsoever. if I believed in an afterlife, if anything, I would lean towards being a universalist.

All I gave you was an example of a passage in the New Testament where it was stated that people get into heaven based on their deeds rather than on any affirmation of belief.

Craig said...

MS,

Fascinating, if you don't believe in an afterlife, why would you be involved in this discussion.

To clarify, if you or Rob, are to base your entire view of this subject on one passage of scripture then you have elevated that passage to primacy over all others. I provided a number of examples that would suggest otherwise and you chose to ignore them. I did not suggest that here was contradiction lust more than one facet to consider. However, as you have said, since you don't believe in an afterlife there is a high degree of irrelevancy here.

I can't believe that your narrow view of God and/or scripture will not allow you to hold the idea that God is multidimensional. That is is actually possible that within his character are the attributes of justice and mercy, love and wrath etc.

Just for fun, lets take a quick look at Matt. 25.

1st parable 10 virgins. Can only virgins enter heaven? How about only wise virgins? Is this parable really about what "qualifies" one to get into heaven? (obviously not)

2nd parable, the talents. Can only good investors enter heaven? Can only capitolists enter heaven? Is this parable about the "qualifications" to get in? (Again, obvioulsy not)

3rd parable sheep/goats. How do we not know that this is not literal sheep/goats? On what basis does the Son of Man Exclude some and include others (sounds exclusive to me). Does this mean we no one gets into heaven until all of the poor, hungry, naked etc are cared for?

The bigger question however is context. The context is when is the kingdom of heaven coming and what does it look like. It seems to me that to reduce Matt 25 to a simple wooden literal interpretation does a disservice to the passage.

I understand that you don't have any problem with inconsistancies, biblical and otherwise, great more power to you. What I'm talking about are contradictions. The koran condones conversion (the proper term is probably submission) to Islam by force. This seems inconsistant with the message of the bible. The ultimate goal of the Hindu is nirvana (which is a fancy word for nothgingness), that would be the opposite of a eternal community in the presence of God. There are other aspects that go beyond mere inconsistancies. You also ignore the point that a muslim would not agree with your interpretation. (as I said earlier I'll ask one of my Etheopian friends next week, what they think)

So when you wrote "Matthew 25 clearly expresses the notion that people will be saved based on their deeds;" you were merely relaying some peoples opinion, not your own. Sorry I didn't catch that nuance.

I will conclude that two religions that make mutually exclusive truth claims cannot both be true. You may write this off as inconsistancy, I see it differently. Again, I would suggest that you look at some of the recent scholarship that would challenge your views, it might be interesting.

Mystical Seeker said...

To clarify, if you or Rob, are to base your entire view of this subject on one passage of scripture then you have elevated that passage to primacy over all others. I provided a number of examples that would suggest otherwise and you chose to ignore them.

I can't speak for Rob; I can only speak for myself. He and I may not have the same point of view. The reason I "ignored" those other passages is because they are irrelevant to what I was addressing. I was focusing on the fact that Matthew 25 said a particular thing about the afterlife. Quoting lots of different passages don't address the question of what Matthew 25 says. It would be like using quotes from the Gettysburg Address in order to prove what the Declaration of Independence says. I would ignore quotes from the Gettysburg Address in that discussion because they had nothing to do with what the Declaration of Independence said. Once again--you asked for an example of a text in the Bible where Jesus is said to have noted that people go to heaven based on their deeds rather than their theology. You now have an example. Your question is answered. As I noted several times already, bringing in other passages elsewhere have nothing to do with the existence of the example I provided.

I will conclude that two religions that make mutually exclusive truth claims cannot both be true.

As I have repeatedly argued in this discussion, the Bible itself makes mutually exclusive truth claims that cannot both be true. Somehow we are supposed to believe that internal contradictions within a faith tradition are examples of how God is "multi-dimensional", while contradictions across religious traditions are proof that they are mutually exclusive. This is a case of trying to have it both ways. My point has been that if Christianity can exist with its own internal contradictions, then the existence of contradictions across religious traditions can hardly be a problem.

Rob said...

To clarify my view, I believe that we enter the Kingdom of God by God's grace alone. The response to that grace is faith, which then is demonstrated through our growth in maturity, spiritual gifts and the fruits of the Spirit.
I agree; we are saved because of God's grace; salvation is a free gift, and when we respond in living faith and are born of the spirit, led by the spirit, and taught by the spirit, we experience a spiritual transformation which spontaneously and naturally yields the fruits of the spirit, which are the only outward evidence we have experienced this new birth in the life of the spirit.

So, of course the thief on the cross made it into the kingdom; as I have said, the price of admission is faith; it is God's grace that accepts that faith as the price of admission to eternal life. A child can understand the simple idea that entrance into God's kingdom is a gift, received by simple childlike faith, but that the Father expects us to grow by grace into the full maturity of the Spirit. Or that if our faith is living, it will spontaneously and naturally yield the fruits of the spirit. When one says, "Lord, Lord," but does not yield the fruits of the spirit, it is a good sign one faith is not living. Kind of like the two sons whom a father said to go into the vineyard to work, and one said he would go, but didn't and one said he wouldn't but did. Which one, after all, did the father's will? Pretty simple stuff, not hard to understand at all. Jesus gave us the two great commandments: to love God with all our heart, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. If the first is real and living, the second follows naturally.

I would agree that in Jesus life and teachings we have a fuller revelation of the nature of God the Father and our relationship thereto. If this is what you mean by the Light of the World I would agree. I would also agree that all religions are a human response to the divine indwelling presence, if that is what you are saying, including Christianity.

I don't think wrath is a part of God's character; wrath is not required for divine justice to function in perfect harmony with divine love and mercy, in my view.

The silly arguments you make about the parable of the judgment day is ludicrous; parables are parables, and the central message of the parable of the sheep and goats is that right beliefs do not atone for standing by idle while widows houses are stolen from them, the destitute are left naked, and the hungry left to starve in the streets in the eyes of God. If that is a truth a child can naturally grasp. To self-righteously proclaim "Lord, Lord," I have all the right beliefs about Jesus, yet fail to yield the fruits of the spirit and love and serve one's neighbors, is the same hypocrisy the Pharisees showed when they would stand in the streets, blow their trumpets loud, just before they handed out alms to all could see their good deeds.

The kingdom of heave in Jesus' teachings was multidimensional; it was both the leavening in the bread that symbolized a present reality in the experience of those who were born of the spirit now, who in this life could experience the peace, joy, and wisdom of the indwelling spirit; the spiritual realization of the truth that we are the children of God. The gospel of the kingdom was to set man free and inspire him to dare to hope for eternal life. This gospel carried a message of new confidence and true consolation for all men, even for the poor. He attempted to translate the ideas of God as the King of a people into the idea of God as the Father of each individual by teaching the concept of the kingdom of heaven as the ideal of doing the will of God. He taught his followers to pray: "Your kingdom come; your will be done" and this was the meaning of his statement, "Not everyone who calls me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of my heavenly Father." (Matt.7.21) The kingdom of God in this world is the supreme desire to do the will of God and the unselfish love of man which yields the good fruits of improved ethical and moral conduct. He also taught it was a future hope and reality; the goal of mortal believers, the estate wherein the love for God is perfected, and wherein the will of God is done more divinely, someday upon this earth, and on the Father's many mansions on high in the next life.

Jesus taught that, by faith, the believer enters the kingdom now. In the various discourses he taught that two things are essential to faith-entrance into the kingdom:

1. Faith, sincerity. To come as a little child, to receive the bestowal of sonship/daughtership as a gift; to submit to the doing of the Father's will without questioning and in the full confidence and genuine trustfulness of the Father's wisdom.

2. Truth hunger. The thirst for righteousness, a change of mind, the acquirement of the motive to be like God and to find God.

Jesus' teachings reveal we must acquire, by faith, a righteousness which would exceed the righteousness of slavish works which some of the scribes and Pharisees paraded so vaingloriously before the world in his day and age. Jesus taught that faith, simple childlike belief, is the key to the door of the kingdom, he also taught that, having entered the door, there are the progressive steps of righteousness which every believing child must ascend in order to grow up to the full stature of the robust sons and daughters of God.

It is in the consideration of the technique of receiving God's forgiveness that the attainment of the righteousness of the kingdom is revealed. Faith is the price you pay for entrance into the family of God; but forgiveness is the act of God which accepts your faith as the price of admission. And the reception of the forgiveness of God by a kingdom believer involves a definite and actual experience and consists in the following four steps, the kingdom steps of inner righteousness:

1. God's forgiveness is made actually available and is personally experienced by man just in so far as he forgives his fellows.

2. Man will not truly forgive his fellows unless he loves them as himself.

3. To thus love your neighbor as yourself is the highest ethics.

4. Moral conduct, true righteousness, becomes, then, the natural result of such love.

It therefore is evident that the true and inner religion of the kingdom unfailingly and increasingly tends to manifest itself in practical avenues of social service. Jesus taught a living religion that impelled its believers to engage in the doing of loving service. But Jesus did not put ethics in the place of religion. He taught religion as a cause and ethics as a result.

The righteousness of any act must be measured by the motive; the highest forms of good are therefore unconscious. Jesus was never concerned with morals or ethics as such. He was wholly concerned with that inward and spiritual fellowship with God the Father which so certainly and directly manifests itself as outward and loving service for man. He taught that the religion of the kingdom is a genuine personal experience which no man can contain within himself; that the consciousness of being a member of the family of believers leads inevitably to the practice of the precepts of the family conduct, the service of one's brothers and sisters in the effort to enhance and enlarge the brotherhood.

Rob said...

Craig states the Qur'an,

condones conversion (the proper term is probably submission) to Islam by force.

Let there be no compulsion in religion: truth stands out clear
from error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped
the most trustworthy handhold that
never breaks. (Surah 2: 256)

The bible contains some of the horrific acts ascribed to God; from genocide to the unjust murder of a child for the purported sins of an adult. At different times different cultures interpreted the bible to justify slavery and the burning of witches.

It also contains some of the most beautify religious literature in the world; so it is with Qur'an.

To fail to see this is a form of ethnocentrism or religious bigotry.

Human beings interpret the same scripture differently, and reach very different conclusions. And the statement above is grossly oversimplified to the point of being a falsehood.

The following refutes the falsehood Craig attempts to spread:

1. Siddiqi, Muzammil H. God: A Muslim View. In Three Faiths One God: A Jewish, Christian, Muslim Encounter (editors, John Hick and Edmund S. Meltzer). New York: SUNY; 1989; pp. 74-75.

Notes: Since all humanity is one family and we all proceed from the same parents, God treats all with equality and justice. The Qur'an says that for every people God assigned a religious path to follow (5:48; 22:34; 22:67), and it forbids the believers to make any distinctions in the way of ascribing superiority or otherwise between the messengers of God and His prophets (2:136; 3:84; 4:152). (Siddiqi 1989: 74)

(....) According to Islam, revelation of God on a spiritual and experiential level (ilqa'; kashf; ilham) is available to all mankind at all times. The Qur'an teaches us that human beings are given an innate and pure nature called fitrah, and the knowledge of God and innate spirituality are, thus, inherent in human existence. Human beings, however, cannot rely upon this innate spirituality alone. They need explicit Divine guidance to develop their innate spiritual nature. God chose for this purpose His reliable servants the prophets to become teachers of mankind. God revealed to them His command and His will for mankind. The revelation in this specific and explicit sense was given to prophets alone and finally to the Prophet Muhammad. (Siddiqi 1989: 74)

As the source of guidance is one, so the guidance itself is essentially the same. Referring to many great prophets teh Qur'an says that they were all muslims and they preached only islam.... The Qur'an in this sense suggests a common level of religiousness for all mankind. All humanity in its simple and authentic religiousness is affiliated to each other. Just as there is a level of common reason and common sense, so there is also a level of common religiousness. (Siddiqi 1989: 75-75)

Among religions differences do exist, and so there are differences between Judaism and Christianity, between Judaism and Islam and between Christianity and Islam. Some of these differences are mutually contradictory and irreconcilable. What to do with these differences, especially when we meet in dialogue? Should we accept them in some kind of syncretism, ignore them, or develop a metaphysic that would relegate all these differences to a secondary position and claim for itself the supreme, elitist and higher position? Or should we explain away these differences in sociological, cultural, historical, economic, natural or psychological terms? All these approaches in the past have proved inadequate and cannot satisfy religious people in any of our traditions. I believe that the Qur'anic approach in this matter is worth serious consideration. The Qur'an says:

Mankind was but one people, but differed [later]. Had it not been for a word that went forth from thy Lord, their differences would have been settled between them. (10:19)

That 'word that went forth from thy Lord' is His decision to give freedom to all mankind to act the way they want and His non-interference in their freedom. In another place, the Qur'an says:

If God had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but that He may test you in that which He has given you: so strive in righteous deeds. Unto God you all will return and He will, then, show you the truth of the matter in which you dispute (5:48).

We are not asked here to resign and sit back watching our differences. Dialogue we must, study we must, try to understand we must, but we must not rush to explain them away. We must continue seeking the truth that is greater than all that we know and possess, and also we must try to be honest and fair in our relations with each other. (Siddiqi 1989: 75)

Craig said...

Rob,

Had you written this about 6 posts ago, we wouldn't have had the conversation.

The only major issue I have with your recent post is simply that Jesus never taught a religion. He can to bring relationship. I am also glad you decided to abandon your wooden literalism and exclusiveism. You still have a ways to go before you can make a compelling case for universalism.

I am sorry that you were unable to recognize the rhetorical questions regarding Matt 25 for what they were. It was an attempt to demonstrate the silliness of MS (and yourself to a degree)in making one parable in Matt 25 the litmus test as to who enters the Kingdom of Heaven. Of course they are absurd, as is the assertion that the sheep/goats parable taken out of context provides a basis to conclude that works get anyone into the Kingdom of God. Further I appreciate you acknowledging that the Kingdom of Heaven is much more that simply getting into heaven.

Regarding your charge of "ethnocentrism" I'm not sure you can sustain that. Nowhere have I ever made any connection between ethnicity and entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven or relationship with God. To resort to ad homenim attacks is a waste of both of our time. I would assume tht you would consider my friend Yohannes (for clarification, a black male born in Etheopia. Who has been targeted for death for preaching Christianity in Etheopia, prior to moving the the US) an ethnocentrist as well, as he would most definately disagree with you.
Agree, disagree I don't really care, you've made up your mind. Just dial back the name calling, please.

I'm not sure what you "refutes the falsehood". Historically Islam has spread by force. As I said, I'll try to get the opinion of some of my Etheopian freinds as to what they were taught. As far as your quotes, none of them comes close to demonstrating that the God revealed in the Bible and the Koran are the same God. Further is simply glosses over the fact that most muslims would not agree with your interpretation.

A cursory reading of your quotes from the Koran seems to indicate that all of our differences as God's fault. That's the answer, God wanted us all to argue over this for thousands of years.

MS,

As you said earlier, discussing the qualifications of entrance to Heaven with someone who denies the existance of Heaven is irrelevant. So I guess we're done.

Mystical Seeker said...

It was an attempt to demonstrate the silliness of MS (and yourself to a degree)in making one parable in Matt 25 the litmus test as to who enters the Kingdom of Heaven.

Once again, for about the zillionth time, and to correct that misstatement, I was not using any biblical passage as a "litmus test". I was answering your question about whether there was any biblical passage that provided a particular theology about heaven. You asked a question in a public forum; I supplied an answer.

Rob said...

Jesus never taught a religion.

It is my view Jesus lived a religious life; his teachings were about how we to can experience this religious life. The early church, and Paul created a religion about him.

Historically, Christianity has spread its religion by force; the Bible even condones and exhorts Joshua to engage in "holy war" and commit genocide. Of course, this is a reflection of the culture and times in which this particular scripture was written, and does neither represents the character of God, the teachings of Jesus, or the more enlightened views of the Bible held by modern most modern Christians. It would be a gross stereotype to cite as evidence the Crusades, for example, as historical proof that the Bible teaches conversion by force, as that historical context represents a particular historical interpretation of the scripture that is viewed very differently in today's modern critical historical viewpoint. There are some Christians today that commit violence because they think the Bible teaches them to do so (I.e., bombing abortion clinics). To then leap to the conclusion that the Bible teaches the use of violence does not logically follow. Individuals, groups, and cultures interpret religious scriptures in different ways at different times.

Your effort to make claims about the Qur'an and Islam as a whole (a gross stereotype) is proven false by the fact that there are other cultural manifestations of Islamic culture other than the particular cultural context of Ethiopia where religious freedom and pluralism exist, such as the Muslim community in America and other modern cultures. The Qur'an, like the Bible, can be and has been interpreted in different ways at different times in different cultures.

Any intelligent student of religious studies 101 can grasp this simple truth that there is a difference between a religious text and how it is interpreted at any given place, time, and culture; it is little more than a prejudiced stereotype that attempt to categorically paint the Qur'an as a book that teaches violence. Such is the nature of religious bigotry and narrow prejudiced stereotypes.

Mystical Seeker said...

Historically, Christianity has spread its religion by force

The percentage of people in the Roman Empire who were Christians before it became the state religion was quite small--something like 5%. It did not expand to something close to 100% until Constantine came along and gave the religion the full force of a government apparatus.

Were Muslims (and, for that matter, Jews) given free reign to express their religion in Spain after the Moors were out of the Iberian peninsula? Of course they weren't. In fact, Isabella was notably quite brutal towards the Moors and did not tolerate practice of their religion. (And yet, many Catholics would like to see Isabella given sainthood by their church.) During the Middle Ages, Christians were generally treated better under Muslim rule than vice versa. During the Middle Ages, I would much rather have been a Christian living under Muslim rule than a Muslim living under Christian rule.

Craig said...

Rob and MS,

You have both moved beyond what the Bible and Koran teach to a different subject entirely.

First; although God in the OT commands the Israelites to remove, by force, various other "tribes". Nowhere do we see any evidence that this is a command that was meant for any other than the nation of Israel at that time. Further, it can be agrued that those actions were God's means of enforcing justice, and that he was fairly consistant in enfoecing his justice when Israel rebelled.

Rob, your comment "or the more enlightened views of the Bible held by modern most modern Christians." reeks of ethnocentrism, "Oh look at me, I'm an enlightened white american/european progressive" give it a rest, please.

No reasonable person would argue that the Crusades or people who bomb abortion clinics are remotely living out the teachings of the Bible.

As far as the Muslim community in America, suffice it to say that there is no better place in the world in which to practice Islam. The problem with your argument is, the religous pluralism that exists in the US, is not a result of US Muslims. It is a result of the secular US govt. Were the US a Muslim nation we would be living in a theocracy under Sharia law, and as we see in Muslim countries those people of other religions would be persecuted. I find it fascinating that in your attempt to portray the wonders of Islam, you neglected to actually mention how great it is in any countries that are actually Islamic. You are right of course, we should put all women in the hijab, and cut limbs off of thieves, and kill apostates. Please, bring on the fatwa's. Oh and lets ban alchol too.

Regarding the context of Islam in Etheopia, surely you cannot be suggesting that an Etheopian Muslim is incapable of reading and understanding the Koran, can you? My point is, that I would like to talk to actual Muslims, rather that realy on googles Koran quotes. (but I've got some of those too)

Finally; nowhere did I even come close to espousing "a prejudiced stereotype that attempt to categorically paint the Qur'an as a book that teaches violence."

As you can note, if you choose, the Koran does teach violence (in addition to other things, some of which may be good, some of which were "borrowed" from the Jewish scripturer.)the fact that the Koarns has other subjects does not mitigate what it says about violence.

As someone who appearantly has a fair amount of religious bigotry and seems to have quite quickly stereotyped me, I will concede your point. You seem to know more about it than I.

MS,

For you to trot out the "state relgion" agrument is incredibly weak. It is fairly well accepted that the point when the Church went away from its historic basis was when Constantine did his thing. As Boyd says in his book "The Myth of a Christian Nation" (I'm paraphrasing). When the Church gets too attached to the state, the Church always gets the short end of the deal. Nowhere in the Bible (outside of the Israelite Theocracy period, which in no way could be considered normative beyond that time) can one make a reasonable case that the Church should be involved in secular political rule. Since we don't live in the middle ages, you are free to believe what you want about the relative merits of the competing governments. However, if you truly feel that it is preferable to live in a Muslim country, there are plenty to choose from. Be my guest.

BTW, I am not a catholic, I believe the reformation had just cause, the Roman church has much to answer for, in my opinion. Tosay that the RC church was operating according to biblical principles is a huge stretch.

Once again, (and has it really been a zillion times?), you provided a passage that needs to be taken out of context and twisted to try to make your point. I dealt with that, you chose not to, give it a rest. For the 5th or 6th time.

Rob, while You are technically correct, the Koran does not specify forced conversion, and it simply gives “infidels” 3 choices:
Conversion, Subjugation, or Death. Which in real life, amounts to the same thing. And If you choose to convert back; it's that whole nasty beheading thing.

LIST OF PASSAGES FROM THE KORAN STARTS NOW

However, the following give you a glimpse of the differences between the Koran and The Bible.


2:120: “Never will the Jews nor the Christians be pleased with you till you follow their religion. Say: "Verily, Islâmic Guidance is the only Guidance. And if you were to follow their desires after what you have received of Knowledge, then you would have against Allâh neither any protector nor helper.”

3:56: “As to those who disbelieve, I will punish them with a severe torment in this world and in the Hereafter, and they will have no helpers."

3:85: “And whoever seeks a religion other than Islâm, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.”

3:118: “O you who believe! Take not as your helpers or friends those outside your religion since they will not fail to do their best to corrupt you. They desire to harm you severely. Hatred has already appeared from their mouths, but what their breasts conceal is far worse. Indeed We have made plain to you the verses if you understand.”

3:178: “And let not the disbelievers think that Our postponing of their punishment is good for them. We postpone the punishment only so that they may increase in sinfulness. And for them is a disgracing torment.”

5:14: “And from those who call themselves Christians, We took their covenant, but they have abandoned a good part of the Message that was sent to them. So We planted amongst them enmity and hatred till the Day of Resurrection, and Allâh will inform them of what they used to do.”

5:51: “O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians as friends, they are but friends to one another. And if any amongst you takes them as friends, then surely he is one of them. Verily, Allâh guides not those people who are the wrong­doers.”

5:73: “Surely, disbelievers are those who said: "Allâh is the third of the three (in a Trinity)." But there is no god but Allâh. And if they cease not from what they say, verily, a painful torment will befall the disbelievers among them.”

8:39: “And fight them until there is no more disbelief in Islam and the religion will all be for Allâh Alone...”

9:23: “O you who believe! Take not for supporters your fathers and your brothers if they prefer disbelief to Belief. And whoever of you does so, then he is one of the wrong-doers.”

9:29: “Fight against those who (1) believe not in Allâh, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allâh and His Messenger (4) and those who acknowledge not Islam as the religion of truth among the people of the Scripture, until they pay the Jizyah [religious tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”

9:34: “O you who believe! Verily, there are many of the Jewish rabbis and the Christian monks who devour the wealth of mankind in falsehood, and hinder men from the Way of Allâh. And those who hoard up gold and silver, and spend it not in the Way of Allâh -- announce unto them a painful torment.”

9:123: “O you who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are close to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allâh is with those who are the pious.”



V.32-33 That was why We laid it down for the Israelites that whoever killed a human being , except as a punishment for murder or other villainy in the land , shall be looked upon as though he had killed all mankind; and that whoever saved a human life shall be regarded as though he had saved all mankind. Our apostles brought them veritable proofs: yet it was not long before many of them committed great evils in the land. Those that make war against God and His apostle and spread disorder shall be put to death or crucified or have their hands and feet cut off on alternate sides, or be banished from the country.


There is NONE who can change His words” [Qur’an 6.115]; “None can change the words of God” [6:34]; “There is no changing the words of God” [10:65]; “There is none who can alter His words” [18:27]. ".... I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, Smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger tips of them." [8:12]. “It is not for any prophet to have captives until he hath made slaughter in the land.” [8:67] “O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives … and those whom thy right (sword) hand possesses of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee.” [33:50]. “Married women are forbidden to you except the captives your sword hand possesses.” [4:24] “Warfare is prescribed for you” [2:216]. “Who so fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or victorious, on him we shall bestow a vast reward.” [4:74] “Hast thou not seen those unto whom it was said: Withhold your hands and establish worship and pay the poor-due? But when fighting was prescribed for them, behold! a party of them fear mankind even as they fear Allah or with greater fear, and say: Our Lord! why hast Thou ordained fighting for us? If only Thou wouldst give us respite for a while. I Say: The comfort of this world is scant; the Hereafter will be better for him that wardeth off evil.” [4:77] "Muhammad is the apostle of Allah. Those who follow him are merciful to one another, but ruthless to unbelievers." [48:29] “Slay the pagans wherever ye find them…”.[9:5] “Fight the unbelievers till they pay the Jizya tax on unbelievers and are subdued.”[9:29] "If the Jews and Christians accept Islam, desist from fighting against them. . . . If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya tax on non-believers. … If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah's help and fight them" [Sahih Muslim, book 19, no. 4294]. "Men are in charge of women ... good women are obedient … ... from those from whom you fear rebellion, admonish them and scourge them. Lo! Allah is ever High Exalted, Great." [4:34]


002:190-191: [2.190] And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits, surely Allah does not love those who exceed the limits. [2.191] And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.

Sounds Like Turn the Other Cheek to Me

Craig said...

Rob and MS,

I heard about this on Sunday, and saw it today.



http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=7d9_1206624103

On the 28th of March LiveLeak.com was left with no other choice but to remove the film "fitna" from our servers following serious threats to our staff and their families. Since that time we have worked constantly on upgrading all security measures thus offering better protection for our staff and families. With these measures in place we have decided to once more make this video live on our site. We will not be pressured into censoring material which is legal and within our rules. We apologise for the removal and the delay in getting it back, but when you run a website you don't consider that some people would be insecure enough to threaten our lives simply because they do not like the content of a video we neither produced nor endorsed but merely hosted.


MS you are right, it would be much better to live in a scociety where you get death threats for availing yourself of our first amendment right to free speech.

While I realize that the content of or the response to this film does not represent all muslims, the fact that those who react this way are not castigated (as the abortion clinic bombers tend to be) says volumes about what Islam really teaches.

Rob said...

While I realize that the content of or the response to this film does not represent all muslims, the fact that those who react this way are not castigated ... says volumes about what Islam really teaches.

Your sophistry is little more than religiously motivated bigotry. It is the anti-thesis of truth and represents the kind of propaganda that is no different than the propaganda propagated by Muslim radicals for their own cause.

Your own words show your true intentions, in that you attempt to appear reasonable when you say, "I realize that the content of or the response to this film does not represent all muslims," but follow it with the false stereotype that the behavior of the radicals represents "what Islam really teaches," which is really to say the same of all Muslims, who after all, the one's who interpret the Qur'an and embody and live what it means to be Muslim.

The abusrudity of the claim that the radical militants represent the totality of Islam, the Qur'an, or what "Islam really teaches" is just as ignorant and false as the kinds of stereotypes that the radical militants spread about Christianity.

Shame on those such as yourself who spread such falsehoods, lies, and malicious stereotypes rather than seeking the truth.

Mystical Seeker said...

First; although God in the OT commands the Israelites to remove, by force, various other "tribes". Nowhere do we see any evidence that this is a command that was meant for any other than the nation of Israel at that time.

Well, then, I guess if genocide is one time thing, that made it okay.

Further, it can be agrued that those actions were God's means of enforcing justice, and that he was fairly consistant in enfoecing his justice when Israel rebelled.

I'm sure that the children who were, according to that biblical account, murdered as as result of the genocide would have been happy to hear that it was God's "justice."

You have used passages in the Koran to support your contention that Islam has violence built into its theology. And yet, as you well know, the Bible also oiffers passages that claim that God sanctioned or instituted genocide--and you sit here in this conversation and defend this very act of genocide as an act of "justice", thus showing that you don't have a moral leg to stand on. Once again, you want to have it both ways. You say the God of Islam is evil because this God advocates violence. When presented with examples in the Bible where the God of your religion advocates violence, you make excuses for it. In other words, you are talking out of both sides of your mouth.

Since we don't live in the middle ages, you are free to believe what you want about the relative merits of the competing governments

Wow, what a convenient way of avoiding the point by just trying to weasel out of admitting anything. We know that Christians were generally better treated in the Middle Ages under Muslim regimes than vice versa. You claim that Islam is inherently more tolerant than Christianity is. I hate to use logic, but let's try to analyze this logically. If that premise were true, that would imply that Christian regimes everywhere were more tolerant than Muslim regimes. The very fact of situations where the reverse has been the case thus refutes your argument. The fact that, during the Middle Ages, the opposite was consistently the case. Thus, according to the principle of modus tollens, Islam is clearly not inherently more inherently more intolerant than Christianity. QED.

Once again, (and has it really been a zillion times?), you provided a passage that needs to be taken out of context and twisted to try to make your point. I dealt with that, you chose not to, give it a rest. For the 5th or 6th time.

No, you didn't "deal" with it. On the contrary, you ran screaming from it. What you did was offer passages from other parts of the Bible. That was an example of changing the subject. The subject was the content of the parable in Matthew 25. You asked for a passage that supported a particular theology, you were given one, and then you turned around and changed the subject by quoting from completely different passages, which, as I pointed out, is like evaluating what a line in the Declaration of Independence says by quoting from a passage in the Gettysburg Address. Interesting, but completely irrelevant to discussing the theology found in the passage in question.

What is particularly humorous about this is that you accused me of giving "primacy" to Matthew 25, when you in effect, by quoting different passages elsewhere, were giving primacy to those passages that seemed to contradict Matthew 25. Once again, you are trying to have it both ways, and are talking out of both sides of your mouth.

The zeal to try to "harmonize" different parts of the Bible with different theologies into a coherent whole, a wasted and useless enterprise, nevertheless serves the interests of conservative Christianity, and leads to this kind of nonsense about "primacy" of one part of scripture with another part that contradicts it. It shows the mental gymnastics and the compartmentalization that is necessary in order to try to make sense of biblical inerrancy.

Craig said...

Rob,

First, I created no propoganda, I expressed an opinion, I was under the impression that that was permitted in a forum such as this. Appearantly I was mistaken.

Second, there is no bigotry toward muslims here. I merely stated the fact that there are Muslims who propogate this sort of thing, and that the "vast majority" of peace loving muslims refuses to condemn those who do.

No where can you provide an actual quote where I have ever said that ALL Muslims belive anything. Your personal attacks are getting old. Your reliance on attacks against my character have shown that you are uninterested in actually dealing with what I have said. You continue to ascribe to me that which I have not said, and to resort to name calling in place of agrument.

So, If you refuse to deal with what I actually write, and engage on the issues, then I give you permission to declare victory. So, go off into blogworld and tell your freinds how you vanquished the evil one.

MS,

I am allowing for the possibility that God is big enough to know more than I do. You are welcome to your opinion about these things, don't mistake it for fact.

I am not talking out of both sides of my mouth, Rob insisted that the Koran does not sanction forced conversion/violence I provided evidence that would seems to say otherwise. I would not presume to speak for God on these matters, I am simply putting out one interpretation of the passages you mention. You ,of course, are free to agree with that or not. But it does not automatically make your interpretation correct,and others incorrect.

Appearantly you are arguing with someone else. I simply said that if you want to believe that Christians were better treated by Muslims in the middle ages you are free to do so. This is not a cop out, we DO NOT live in the middle ages we live in the 21st century. The simple fact is that neither you or Rob can name a Muslim theocracy that allows more religious freedom than the US. I will stipulate, that there was much violence perpetrated by buth the church and by Islam during most of recorded history.

the fact that you inferred something that I did not say is not my problem. I will say it again, if you think your life would be better in a Muslim theocracy (the only kind of Muslim govt.) then great enjoy your move.

"You claim that Islam is inherently more tolerant than Christianity is. I hate to use logic, but let's try to analyze this logically. If that premise were true, that would imply that Christian regimes everywhere were more tolerant than Muslim regimes. The very fact of situations where the reverse has been the case thus refutes your argument. The fact that, during the Middle Ages, the opposite was consistently the case. Thus, according to the principle of modus tollens, Islam is clearly not inherently more inherently more intolerant than Christianity. QED."

Since I didn't actually claim this inchoherent mess I won't bother to respond to it.

MS, if you are not going to read my response, at least do me the simple courtesy of not putting words in my mouth. In addition to providing other references that might be useful to put (part) of Matt 25 in the context of both the entire book of Matt as well as the other gospels, I also wrote more extensively than I would have liked on the entirety of Matt 25, not just your proof text. If you don't agree with my interpretation, fine, it won't hurt my feelings (I'm in good company). But don't say I didn't deal with your out of context attempt to establish a works based theology. (for the record Islam is works based)

If anything I was giving "primacy" the the entiterty of the NT not part of one chapter. It's a fairly common practice.


"The zeal to try to "harmonize" different parts of the Bible with different theologies into a coherent whole, a wasted and useless enterprise, nevertheless serves the interests of conservative Christianity, and leads to this kind of nonsense about "primacy" of one part of scripture with another part that contradicts it. It shows the mental gymnastics and the compartmentalization that is necessary in order to try to make sense of biblical inerrancy."

The above is a statement of opinion masquerading as a truth claim. It's your opinion and your welcome to it. I have never said otherwise.

MS, as you and Rob have shown this is a wast of time. This started by my saying that the Bible and the Koran taech things that would lead any unbiased observer to conclude that they were revealing different Gods. Neither of you have seriously attempted to refute this. There are two lists of quotes from the Koran that contradtct each other and a significant number of them contradict the Bible, that have been ignored. There is evidence of death threats by Muslims for simply showing a video on the internet. You cannot show any contemporary Muslim theocracy that has as much religious freedom as the putatively "christian" US. The amazing thing is that this discussion could not happen in a Muslim theocracy without risk.

We are obvioulsy haveing two entirely different discussions here. In that spirit, I will allow you to claim victory in this because i just won't have the time or energy to keep up with the mental gymnastics. Enjoy, you win. Maybe you'll get lucky and the US will impliment Sharia law as it appears some think the UK should.

Craig said...

PS I have never made any claim of "Biblical Inerrancy".

Mystical Seeker said...

Appearantly you are arguing with someone else. I simply said that if you want to believe that Christians were better treated by Muslims in the middle ages you are free to do so. This is not a cop out,

LOL. Wow, you deny it is a cop out one sentence after you repeat the same cop out! You state, "if you want to believe that Christians were better treated by the Muslims in the middle ages"--which is of course a careful, non-commital way of refusing to just come right out and admit that, in fact, Christians were treated better in the Middle Ages by Muslims than vice versa.

This started by my saying that the Bible and the Koran taech things that would lead any unbiased observer to conclude that they were revealing different Gods. Neither of you have seriously attempted to refute this.

Not true. I addressed the illogic of your position by repeatedly pointing out that within the Christian tradition itself, the Bible teaches things that "would lead any unbiased observer to conclude that they were revealing different Gods." I pointed out that if Christianity is able to resolve its own internal contradictions, then there is hardly any problem resolving any contradictions between the way God is presented across multiple traditions.

Rob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mystical Seeker said...

If anything I was giving "primacy" the the entiterty of the NT not part of one chapter. It's a fairly common practice.

Common practice or not, it is inherently problematic an attempt at harmonizing disparate documents, written by different people at different times and circumstances, and reflecting different theologies, under the pretense that all these disparate elements somehow reflect an identical theology. And when this effort at harmonization suppresses the theology of one part of the New Testament in favor of another one, it is creating a kind of de factor primacy of the passages that the resulting harmonization favors (over those passages that contradict this harmonization.)

Rob said...

I realize that the content of or the response to this film does not represent all muslims, the fact that those who react this way are not castigated (as the abortion clinic bombers tend to be) says volumes about what Islam really teaches.

You lack basic simple logic my friend, for you make a claim, which is based on the premise that Muslims do not speak out against acts (verbal or otherwise) of violence, and because they don't the conclusion follows that those acts of violence (verbal or otherwise) is what Islam really teaches.

Let us parse your ignorant fallacious logic.
Premise = p
Conclusion = c

p: Muslims do not speak out against violent acts in speech and deed.

c: Therefore, Islam really teaches violence in speech and deeds.

The premise of this claim that Muslims don't speak out against violence (in word and deed) is false, for many Muslim leaders have and continue to speak out against violence.

The truth is that many Muslim leaders are speaking out against the militants, both in public and in the Mosque.

The conclusion therefore is false. It is nothing more than the fear laden, prejudiced parroting of stereotypes that is typically of evangelical fundamentalist Christians, really no different than the mentality of the very radical militants they seek to use to stereotype all Islam. They love not nor care for the truth, but only seek to justify their own prejudices and do not hesitate to spread falsehoods in so doing. As I said, it is the nature of religious bigotry to play loose with the truth.

Craig said...

Jeez,

You guys win already, just can't keep yourselves from piling on. I can't waste any more time. Mischaracterize all you want, malign me all you want, I'm walking away. It's pointless to continue, you are obvioulsy committed to your preconceptions, enjoy.

PS If you are going to make truth claims then you could at least back them up.

Rob said...
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Rob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob said...

Jeez,

Imagine that, someone who claims to be Christian spreading falsehoods and lies, mischaracterizing the truth so he can malign the innocent, and when it is pointed out that is what he is doing, getting mad because he cannot back them up, and crying I don't want to play anymore ;-)

The truth matter my friend, and spreading malicious lies is unChristlike.

Jesus did not play loose with the truth; that was why he made the Samaritan the central figure of the parable of the Good Samaritan, for in his day the same kind of prejudiced, malicious, falsehoods were regulary repeated about the Samaritans that Craig now spreads about all Islam.

Rob said...

The bottom line is that it is fundamentally unChristlike and unJesusonian to refuse to accord the same degree of fairness to the other (whether enemy or adversary) that one would accord to oneself or one's fellows.

Any intelligent Christian can recognize the error in those who justify (both past and present) violent acts in the of religion as being misguided and not representing the "what Christianity truly teaches," yet when one turns around and refuses to accord these this same truth to the other, is fundamentally unjust, unrighteous, and unfair.

It is not Godlike, let alone Christlike, to allow prejudice to blind one to such simple truth and fairness.

Craig said...

Rob,

I knew you couldn't leave it alone. I have not made malicious and false comments at any point in this thread. You have offered no proof to back up your opinions. And to accuse me of lying about my reason for trying to end this foolishness is not Christlike in any way shape or form.

I have said repeatedly, you have your opinions. No matter how much I respond to you you are going to dismiss it so what is the point of continuing to go further afield. If it makes you feel better to take shots at me then I'll just have to turn the other cheek.

So once more, I am withdrawing, I bow to your superior logical, reasoning, and google skills. You have bested me I am incapable of keeping up with your awesome intellect, so please, I'm begging let it go. Move on, Get a life. It's been an interesting way to spend my day off, but I've got to work and parent, so while I'll probably drop back by to see what you've said about me, this will most likely be my last post on this thread. Enjoy your victory.

Rob said...

Craig,
You have attempted to malign the Qur’an and all Islam, rather than speak to the real issue of those radical Muslims who capture the headlines. Ethiopia and its cultural interpretation of Islam does not represent all of Islam, and therefore it does not represent what “Islam really teaches.” And if you cared about the truth you know this, and would not therefore attempt to paint all of Islam with the same brush.
I have a friend who has been in the US Special Forces for over twenty years now; his wife flies special op into their missions. They both risk their lives so you can have the freedom to express such false claims about the religion they were both born into; he speaks Arabic fluently of course, as it is his mother tongue. He was recently in Iraq under cover, hunting high value Al Qaeda targets, blending in with the Iraq community, living, eating, and praying in the Mosque with Muslims. He had many conversations with the Muslim Imams in Iraq, and has seen for himself how they are preaching against the radicals and denouncing Al Qaeda both in the Mosque and in their personal lives. Some have paid with their lives for doing so. They do because this is what Islam teaches them; because they believe this is the will of God.
Yet, you would paint them with the same brush as those whom they denounce, and say that Islam really teaches violence. Odd, here they are risking their lives in the name of Islam teaching it means peace, not violence, denouncing the radicals as false teachers and against true Islam.
Just because you are unaware of what Muslim leaders are doing to combat radical Islam, you attempt to malign their religion. How, fair or truthful is that? How ironic that Muslims risk their lives to fight radical militants, and you malign their religion and faith.

Someone who cares about the truth would given at least a second thought before making such sweeping statements, I would think.

Flycandler said...

Sorry, I do have a question. Where is this Etheopia place that is a Muslim theocracy? I can't seem to find it on my map.

Now, I have heard of a place called Ethiopia, which is over 60% Christian and less than 35% Muslim, and is a constitutional, parliamentary democracy. I cannot speak to Craig's friend's experiences (or even what country he's really talking about), but it seems odd that he would be targeted for death for preaching Christianity by the government of the place that is, after all, the center of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

No, I can't think of any theocracies I would want to live in off the top of my head. I am a small-d, small-r democratic republican who believes in separation of church and state. I am appalled by modern Iran and early 18th-century Massachusetts. By definition, a theocracy tends to frown on freedom of religion. I don't understand what point Craig is making.

And since he's failed to condemn Fred "God Hates Fags" Phelps and the Westboro nuts, are we to assume that all Christians really support Phelps?

Craig said...

It's like frekin' quicksand.

Rob, I have not maligned all muslims any more thatyou havea maligned all evangelicals. Perhaps I misspoke (wrote) using less specific terms than you consider appropriate. Be that as it may Yo have consistantly twisted what I have said, while ignoring much of my comments. As I continue to say, let it go. I have never said that my Ethopian friends represent all Muslims. I DID say, that it might be interesting to get feedback from actual Muslims rather than simply googlling a bunch of of verses from the Koran. Obviously, you feel that your SF frieend (who in Iraq represents the "occupying forces" and it is POSIBLE that these imams are simply telling him what he wants to hear) is a much better source fine. Pardon me for trying to get some non internet feedback.

I think it is interesting that your friend who is talking to imams in Iraq who are speaking out against the radicals. I'm glad to hear that, I would hope to hear more, but it is not widely circulated that this is happening. Despite that, you cannot deny that a significant segment of Islam is dedicated to jihad. You also cannot deny that the Koran teaches jihad. I'm sure different sects of Islam interpret that differently, but you can't deny it's there. I'm not sure what compels you to keep this up, but if it makes you feel better keep going.

Fly,

Please read my posts. If you do you will find that I did not say that Etheopia was/is a Muslim theocracy. I did say that the Koran teaches that in a Muslim country Sharia (or religious) law is the law of the land. There are countries that are ethnically/culturally Muslim, that have secular governmets. But the Koranic ideal for a Muslim country is a theocracy.

I'm sure Yohannes will be happy to know that you know the situation so well that you feel you can make light of his situation.

The point I was trying to make was in response to MS who made the blanket statement (which is appearantly frowned on here), that in the middle ages Christians in Muslim countries were treated better than Muslims in Christian countries. While I personally doubt that there is any way to actually "prove" his assertion true, it really doesn't matter. We don't live in the middle ages any more. At this point in history the countries with the most religous freedom are countries that are at least nominally "christian". Muslim countries at the present time have much less tolerance for religious pluralsm than non-muslim countries. I'm not sure how that relatively simple point generated all this crap, but it did.

As far as the Phelps tribe, I would not be suprised if I was the only person on this thread who has ever told one that he was wrong to his face. So, since I've already told them, I have no problem telling you. They are a bunch of inbred ntermarried morons who damage the cause of Christ every time they open their mouths. (I'm betting that I won't get called on painting them with a broad brush) Is that direct enough for you? I do assume that you were not attempting to malign me or any other evangelical Chriatian by associating me with them. "How, fair or truthful is that?"

PS. I really don't think you were doing that, just trying to inject a little into this discussion.

Mystical Seeker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob said...

I realize that the content of or the response to this film does not represent all muslims, the fact that those who react this way are not castigated (as the abortion clinic bombers tend to be) says volumes about what Islam really teaches.

You clearly imply one case is sufficient to tell us "what Islam really teaches."

Apparently, you have changed you mind:

Perhaps I misspoke (wrote) using less specific terms than ... appropriate.

Yes, perhaps you did ... and continue to do so as your words below show.

I did say that the Koran teaches that in a Muslim country Sharia (or religious) law is the law of the land.

You continue to display your ignorance of both history, the Qur'an, and the now specifically, the origin of Shariah within Muslim tradition. I suggest you read Hans Kung's latest work, called "Islam: Past, Present, and Future" so you might become intelligently informed of about something you apparently know very little. The Qur'an existed prior to the interpretations of Shariah as the so-called "law of the land", which came later as Muslim cultures attempted to establish legal systems based upon the principles of the Qur'an as interpreted at any one given point in time and place. Hence, there are many different examples of Shariah having been implemented, some more liberal and democratic, some more theocratic, depending again on time and place.

There are countries that are ethnically/culturally Muslim, that have secular governments But the Koranic ideal for a Muslim country is a theocracy.

Another falsehood; this is a case of self-chosen ignorance. There was no such developed theory of jurisprudence until well after the Qur'an and long after the death of the Muhammad. Again, Kung's work puts such balderdash to rest.

There is ample evidence in the historical record to support MS's claim that Muslim cultures treated Christians well at different times in history; there is also evidence there were Christian cultures that did the same. Neither has a monopoly on good and evil. The point is relevant because it proves that at any point in time it is culture that determines how religion and scripture is interpreted and practiced. Modernity is impacting all religions, some at a fast pace than others. Religious pluralism as a problem of modern society is a relatively recent phenomena, having given rise to the fields of religious studies and comparative religion. Muslims have been historically open to intelligent dialogue with other faiths, such as the Mughal ruler Akbar the Great, who during his reign built great halls for inter-faith dialogue and debates. He didn't have much patience with the narrow-minded theologians or orthodox Islam or Christianity,

Suddenly the theologians of our time became highly disputatious, and noise and confusion prevailed. His Majesty became angry at their rude behavior, and said to me, 'In future report to me if any of the theologians talk nonsense and don't behave themselves. I'll see to it that they leave the room!' I said quietly to Asaf Khan, 'If I carry out this order, the majority of them will have to leave the room.' His Majesty suddenly asked me what I'd just said. He was pleased with my reply and repeated it to those sitting near him. Indeed, when 'learned men wield the sword of the tongue on the battlefield of mutual disagreement', it could lead to 'the moustache of the emperor bristling like that of a tiger'. Akbar's religious fervour encompassed all religions. (The Empire of the Great Mughals History, Art, and Culture, pp. 35-36)

That some cultural manifestations of Islam are facing the challenge of modernity, democracy, and religious pluralism, just as Christianity has had to face these issues in its own history, does not imply that Islam is inherently less tolerant, peaceful, or able to evolve and adapt to the challenges of modernity.

Kung addresses the concerns you have but in a balanced manner, based upon evidence, rather than stereotypes and baseless speculation.

I would be happy to hear an evangelical Christian speak in other than stereotypes; perhaps you could be the first ;-)

Craig said...

Rob,

Of course I'll take a look at Kung's unbiased scholarship. As soon as I get the chance. I'd be glad to hear a progressive christian stop speaking in stereotypes, but I know that won't be you.

This is pointless, your denial of the fact that sharia law is the "law of the land" in muslim theocracies as we speak. The fact that not all muslim scocieties do not practice this does not invalidate the point that Sharia Law is practiced. To say that just because Sharia was codified post Koran somehow invalidates it or makes it less a part of modern islamic life is splitting hairs. It would be somewhat equivelent to saying that the Apostles Creed has not impacted modern day Christianity even though it post dates the Bible. I would suspect that most muslim scholars would argue that the Sharia simply codifies what is written in the Koran. In much the same way we see in Jewish tradition.

Thank you for making my point vis-a-vis Christian/Muslim treatment during the middle ages. MS stated as a fact that Christrians were better treated by Muslims than vice versa, I have repaetedly maintained that it is impossible to make that blanket statement (especially with zero offer of evidence to back it up). It is obvious that in localized cases groups of Christians and Muslims treated each other well. No one is arguing otherwise.

Again, this is spliting hairs. Look at the muslim countries as they exist today in real life. Are you seriously arguing that they are more tolerant than the so called "christian west". How many countires allow women the right to vote. Hom many would allow you to be as openly critical of Islam as you are of Christianity. You are looking at the ideal, how it should be in the best possible situation. That doesn't exist. This may shock you, but fallible people will misuse the Koran to oppress people. Just like people have misused the Bible to oppress people. This is news? Yes, you could say that Islam is having growing pains trying to adapt to the 21st century, I don't know that you would be able to get a lot of muslims to agree with you, but that's fine. We disagree, so what. If you could put aside your preconceptions, and deal with me as an individual (fallible as we all are), it might be possible to disagree more agreeably. But, your constant accusations about my motives are getting old. I have no problem disagreeing, I have no problem admitting when I am wrong (when presented with evidence)I do have a problem being called someone who spreads falsehoods, lies and malicious stereotypes rather than seeking the truth. You can tell me I have made a factual mistake, and I'll look at your evidence to the contrary. You however choose not to give me the same courtesy. Again, I'm tired of this crap. So if you want to try a different tactic that would be great, if not I'll live. I'm sure you'll keep this going, since you can't seem to let go, I may or may not respond depending on what is going on in my real life. But I'm not going to invest additional effort in this, it really has gotten pointless.

Rob said...

I realize that the content of or the response to this film does not represent all muslims, the fact that those who react this way are not castigated (as the abortion clinic bombers tend to be) says volumes about what Islam really teaches.

Perhaps I misspoke (wrote) using less specific terms than ... appropriate.

I did say that the Koran teaches that in a Muslim country Sharia (or religious) law is the law of the land.

There are countries that are ethnically/culturally Muslim, that have secular governments But the Koranic ideal for a Muslim country is a theocracy.

The Qur'an existed prior to the interpretations of Shariah as the so-called "law of the land", which came later as Muslim cultures attempted to establish legal systems based upon the principles of the Qur'an as interpreted at any one given point in time and place. Hence, there are many different examples of Shariah having been implemented, some more liberal and democratic, some more theocratic, depending again on time and place. But there was no such developed theory of jurisprudence until well after the Qur'an and long after the death of the Muhammad.

Clearly, the above statement notes there have been "theocracies" throughout Muslim history, yet, we see how Craig ignores the explicit statement, twists and distorts meanings, and continues in his litany of falsehoods:

... your denial of the fact that sharia law is the "law of the land" in muslim theocracies as we speak.

You said:

the Koranic ideal for a Muslim country is a theocracy.

Of course, this is false, because there have been in the past and are in the present Muslim countries that do have secular-civil law as the common law of the land. There are Muslims intellectuals who argue that secular-common law and democracies are the ideal, not Shariah law. Ergo, not all Muslims believe, uphold, or teach that Shariah law should be the law of the land and many, many Muslims do not believe that "theocracy" is the ideal form of government. As usual, Craig is little more than a mallious liar and falsehood monger.

I would suspect that most muslim scholars would argue that the Sharia simply codifies what is written in the Koran.

Utter hogwash; most Muslim scholars say no such thing, in fact, only the fanatical fundamentalist militants make such a-historical ridiculous claims.

Those are the false claims I take issue with; you keep making them, speaking in stereotypes, and seem to be repeating on gross falsehood after another.

You are playing loose with the truth.

Really, if you want to have an intelligent conversation start at least being a bit more careful in you use of stereotypes.

Mystical Seeker said...

Of course, this is false, because there have been in the past and are in the present Muslim countries that do have secular-civil law as the common law of the land. There are Muslims intellectuals who argue that secular-common law and democracies are the ideal, not Shariah law. Ergo, not all Muslims believe, uphold, or teach that Shariah law should be the law of the land and many, many Muslims do not believe that "theocracy" is the ideal form of government.

Oh Rob, you are being so silly. Those Muslims who don't believe in "theocracy" obviously can't be real Muslims, because if they were, they would believe in theocracy, and the proof of that is that all Muslims believe in theocracy, except for those who don't, but those who don't can't be real Muslims because they don't believe in theocracy, and the proof of that is...

Don't you love circular reasoning?

Reminds me of the assertions made by the Hitchens/Dawkins crowd, when they make sweeping statements about what is supposedly inherent about Christian belief and the evils that derive from it. When it is pointed out that not all Christians conform to their sweeping statements about what Christianity supposedly entails, thus disproving the general statement, the standard response is basically just to dismiss these examples and say that they don't count.

Straw men are wonderful. So are sweeping generalizations that are disproved by actual counter-examples.

And it is always interesting how those who aren't even a member of the particular faith tradition in question (Christianity in the case of Hitchens or Dawkins, and Islam in the case of the anti-Islam crowd) somehow think they get to decide who is and is not a legitimate member of that faith, or that they know what the real meaning of the faith is better than those who profess it.

Rob said...

After picking myself up off the floor from laughter, that was certainly the argument Mr. Circlular is making.

Perhaps besides Kung, he ought to read a book on basic critical thinking skills and logic 101 ;-)

Flycandler said...

I know, I know, I'm still hung up on these little facts about geography and anthropology.

First, ETHIOPIA IS NOT A MUSLIM COUNTRY. It is overwhelmingly Christian, admittedly a form of Christianity that many American Christians would find exotic, but Christians still outnumber the Muslims there two to one. Ethiopian law IS NOT SHARIA, it is CIVIL LAW, which is a system invented in the Roman Empire and refined by Napoleon (as opposed to the Common Law system used in Britain and her former colonies). Sharia is NOT the "law of the land" in Ethiopia.

Are there countries that experience religious freedom that are not "nominally Christian" (whatever that means)? Yes. Some are even "Muslim countries". Ataturk abolished Sharia in Turkey, replacing it with a civil law system based on the Swiss. There is total separation between church/mosque and state in Turkey.

India is the world's largest democracy, and it is overwhelmingly Hindu (80%), followed by the Muslims (13%). Christians only make up 2%, but each religious group is given a large amount of latitude to settle domestic issues (marriage, divorce, inheritance) according to their own religious traditions. The government itself is secular.

France has been staunchly secular since the Revolution (the French term is läcité) and has a commitment to separation of church and state even stronger than that in the United States. Everyone is free to worship how they wish as a result.

The fundamental problem is that Christianity does not lead to religious freedom. Läcité almost always does. To wildly paraphrase Madison, the purpose of separation of church and state is to protect the integrity of both institutions.

Mystical Seeker said...

Flycandler, your examples of Turkey and France are good ones. Both are staunchly secular countries, one Christian and the other Moslem.

The French model of laïcité is definitely stronger than that of the US. Many Christians in the US have frequently opposed the separation of church and state, have tried to involve Christian religion more directly and explicitly in public affairs, and there was even a brouhaha when a Muslim was elected to the US Congress. US Christianity is often anything a bastion of pluralism and tolerance. It depends on which segment of Christianity we are talking about, of course--which is exactly the point. You can't make generalizations about Christianity based its intolerant conservatives any more than you can do the same with Muslims.

Intolerance and pluralism have had their periods of ascendancy and decline in various cultures of the world at various times in history. Fundamentalisms of all faiths are opposed to secularism, and that is the real problem. As Karen Armstrong has written, Every fundamentalist movement I have studied in Judaism, Christianity and Islam is convinced that liberal, secular society is determined to wipe out religion. Fighting, as they imagine, a battle for survival, fundamentalists often feel justified in ignoring the more compassionate principles of their faith. But in amplifying the more aggressive passages that exist in all our scriptures, they distort the tradition.

Fundamentalism versus secularism. Liberalism versus intolerance. Not Christianity versus Islam. Bigotry against other faiths is itself an expression of that very intolerance. It is ironic that some who condemn Islam for its alleged intolerance are themselves exhibiting the very bigotry they ostensibly condemn.

She points out that Islam has a record of tolerance for other faiths. As she writes, Islam did not impose itself by the sword. In a statement in which the Arabic is extremely emphatic, the Koran insists, "There must be no coercion in matters of faith!" (2: 256). Constantly Muslims are enjoined to respect Jews and Christians, the "People of the Book," who worship the same God (29: 46). In words quoted by Muhammad in one of his last public sermons, God tells all human beings, "O people! We have formed you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another" (49: 13)--not to conquer, convert, subjugate, revile or slaughter but to reach out toward others with intelligence and understanding.

It is interesting to note what she wrote elsewhere about how Muslims were more tolerant than Christians were towards the Jews living in Jerusalem during the Middle Ages:

Respect for other faiths was manifest in Islamic Jerusalem. When Caliph Umar, one of Muhammad's successors, conquered the Jerusalem of the Christian Byzantines in 638, he insisted that the three faiths of Abraham coexist. He refused to pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher when he was escorted around the city by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch....

The Jews found their new Muslim rulers far more congenial than the Byzantines. The Christians had never allowed the Jews to reside permanently in the city, whereas Umar invited 70 Jewish families back. The Byzantines had left the Jewish Temple in ruins and had even begun to use the Temple Mount as a garbage dump.

Umar, according to a variety of accounts, was horrified to see this desecration. He helped clear it with his own hands, reconsecrated the platform and built a simple wooden mosque on the southern end, site of al-Aqsa Mosque today.


The point is clear. Both religions can and do exhibit intolerance towards other faiths. Intolerance and bigotry manifests itself in a lot of ways, and the best way to counter that is to encourage mutual respect and tolerance.

Rob said...

Flycandler and Mystical,

Thank you both for your intelligent and informed posts, which put to rest the blather Craig attempts to foist on this blog as truth and fact.

Much appreciated.

Rob

Craig said...

Rob, Fly, and MS,

Please bash among yourselves, don't mind me. I'll be interested to see how long you can keep this going.

BTW, logical trio, thank you for restating several of the points I made, they sounded so much better when you said them.

Fly, you never let me know if my Phelps bashing was in tense enough for you. I realize it wasn't as clever as your bashing of me, but it was from the heart.

Flycandler said...

Now you've gone five minutes without denouncing Timothy McVeigh!

See, that PROVES all Christians support the bombing of government buildings!

Give me a break.

Craig said...

I'm beginning to understand, the only way to get membership in your club is to denounce the right people. Could you please post a list of those to be denounced, as well as the proper form of denouncement, so that I won't miss denouncing anyone else.

Craig said...

"(I am not getting into any argument about who is worse, Christians or Muslims, as if the less oppressive should get a medal of honor. The Muslims are horribly oppressive)."

Gee, If I would have said this the fur would have started flying. Too bad I didn't.

I'll send you a dollar if you can ID the person responsible for this intolerance.

Craig said...

Because I suspect I may be becoming a masochist, I will continue to drop bits of interest here.



“Those who destroyed the World Trade Centre are regarded as terrorists … Might it be fair to say that the Crusaders who attacked the Muslim inhabitants of Jerusalem were also terrorists?”
Why the Crusades took place
No it wouldn’t be fair. Nor would it be true. In the story Paul Stenhouse tells, the 463 years between the death of Muhammed in 632 AD, and the First Crusade in 1095, were extremely dangerous for Christian Europe. Instead of peace there were unrelenting Islamic wars and incursions; Muslim invasions of Spain, Italy, Sicily and Sardinia; raids, seizures, looting of treasure, military occupations that lasted until Saracen forces were forcibly dislodged, sackings of Christian cities including Rome, and desecrations of Christian shrines. And be it noted: all this went on for 463 years before any Christian Crusade in response to these murderous provocations took place.
Sixteen years after the death of Muhammed, in 648 AD, Cyprus was overrun. Rhodes fell in 653, and by 698 AD the whole of North Africa was lost. In 711 Muslims from Tangier crossed into Spain, set their sights on France, and by 720 AD Narbonne had fallen. Bordeaux was stormed and its churches burnt in 732. As Gibbon emphasised, only the resistance at Poitiers of Charles Martel in 732 saved Europe from occupation, and arrested the Muslim tide.
From 800 on, incursions into Italy began. In 846 a Saracen force of 10,000 landed in Ostia, assaulted Rome, and sacked and desecrated the Basilicas of St Peter and St Paul. In 859 they seized the whole of Sicily. After capturing a fortress near Anzio, Muslim forces “plundered the surrounding countryside for forty years”. In southern France at the end of the ninth century they held a base near Toulon from which they ravaged both Provence and Northern Italy, and controlled the passes over the Alps, robbing and murdering pilgrims on their way to Rome. Genoa was attacked in 934 and taken in 935. In 1015 Sardinia was taken, occupied, and held my Muslim forces until 1050.
In 1076 the Seljuk Turkish capture of Jerusalem finally exhausted the patience of Islam’s victims in Christian Europe. Only then were concerted moves begun to drive back the infidel, launch the First Crusade, and retake Jerusalem



Roger Sandall
Feb 2008