Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Newton Presbytery and the True Believers

Newton Presbytery has submitted an overture to the PC(USA) General Assembly, "On Calling for Tolerance and Peaceful Relations Between The Christian and Muslim Communities." It seems like a good overture to me. It is a call for dialogue, peaceful relations, and finding common ground.

At my previous congregation I wrote an article for the local newspaper that advocated this kind of approach, Respond With Hospitality to Growing Diversity. In that article I recounted the following story:

One doctor who became a friend of mine was a Jain. I had never before heard of Jainism (even though it is a religious tradition that predates Christianity by six centuries). His wife was Roman Catholic.

He told me that they had a sacred space set up in their home in which each had placed icons, statues and other symbols of their respective faiths. With a big smile he assured me, "All of our gods get along wonderfully!"

Implied in that statement is, "So do we."

It seems that the point of this overture (and the point of my article) is to connect on the human level. It is about all of us and all of our "gods" (read: our various conceptions of God) getting along. What could be wrong with this?

Plenty, according to the Christian true believers. They have issues with theology. When they get into it my eyes glaze over. Theological and biblical "proofs" abound. It is a foreign language to me. I think some people would rather read their Bible than talk to another human being.

It seems to me that the only reason to bother with theology or religion is to make the world a better place and to increase love, mutual understanding, and cooperation between people.
But so much theology and religion makes things worse. Religion is just one more cause for division.

The real issue is not between my Jain friend and I. We had a great time. The issue is between the true believers (of my own denomination) and those who wrote the overture. That is the challenge. How do we deal with the true believers? The best way I have found is to try to work on things in common and not talk about religion.

At the same time, you can't allow the true believers to keep you from doing what you have to do. This is an important overture for our time and acting on its recommendations is even more important.


75 comments:

  1. You know you can't just judge everything by its title. "On Calling for Tolerance and Peaceful Relations Between The Christian and Muslim Communities" is one thing but the fact that the two religions are mutually exclusive is another. I feel we must reach out to the anti-smitetheirnecks Muslims but why make statements that are factually incorrect?

    The Qur'anic message taught by Muhammad is that of a special regard for Christians and Christianity and the Qur'an is the only Holy Book other than the New Testament that describes the miraculous birth of Jesus.

    The first statement is contradicted by the majority of Quranic references to Christians. The second contradiction is that the Qur'anic Baby Jesus stands up and starts talking. I don't recall that in my gospels.

    We need common ground (and there is some) but we also need common sense. Perhaps they can edit this statement.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Biblical proofs are by definition circular. Add to that the contamination of biblical interpretation by this or that doctrine, and you end up with such faulty reasoning that it's a wonder we don't just go to defcon 1 and nuke each other already.

    It may come to that some day.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for this. I found it most interesting. Over Easter I was on a week's residential looking at Christian Mission in a Plural Society. I wrote about some of it here: Link

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Well, Jim, by logical extension of your argument, we shouldn't have dialog with ANY other religion, because to the fundamentalists in each, they're "mutually exclusive".

    If Christianity and Islam, which share the same God and the latter's holy text specifically commands tolerance and respect toward the former, are so fundamentally incompatible, then hell, who CAN we talk to?

    We can't talk to the Hindus because their god/gods don't match up with ours. We can't talk to the Buddhists or Taoists because they have no gods. Shoot, we can't even talk to the Jews because they don't recognize Jesus or "your" gospels.

    We may as well root out the apostates within Christianity while we're at it. Both the Catholics and the Baptists have heretical doctrines on the Lord's Supper (which was instituted by Christ himself, after all), so we need to stop all dialog with them. Let's not stop there! We can begin dividing ourselves over all kinds of issues, like ordination of women, and whether to Hate the Gay, and which color hymnal to use, and pretty soon we have each person in his/her own church by him/herself.

    No, we need now more than ever to have open and honest dialog with people of other faiths. Caricature and demonization makes it easier to attack The Other.

    The first statement is contradicted by the majority of Quranic references to Christians. The second contradiction is that the Qur'anic Baby Jesus stands up and starts talking. I don't recall that in my gospels.

    Please get your facts straight before giving us astonishing nuggets like these.

    ReplyDelete
  6. BTW, I love the theological handstands that Our Viola goes through to say "I think Muslims are evil apostates because they don't believe that Jesus is Divine, but I love love love love love the Jews!"

    Yep, the last people on earth it's OK to hate are the Muslims and the Gay.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Tolerance for Muslims? Heck, if you're a Presbyterian and you dare to even suggest such a thing, the true believers (via Viola's blog) call you apostate.

    The "true believers" are unwilling to be tolerant of anyone who doesn't believe exactly like they do. Sort of an easy brand of tolerance.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Jim wrote---We need common ground (and there is some) but we also need common sense.

    and there is some

    Obviously the core common point is that Muslims truly believe that the one God is their Creator just as we do. How they feel toward God is similar to how we feel. We are still all made in God's image.

    Jesus is a special prophet to Muslims. He is referred to as "Isa al Masi" - "Jesus the Messiah" - sent from God, but He is denied the central role of Son that our Bible has for Him. You are saved by works alone in Islam.

    There are many, many differences however and we can't ignore them. Muslims won't ignore them regardless of whether or not we ignore them.

    Fly writes--Please get your facts straight before giving us astonishing nuggets like these.

    Are you saying that I am wrong?

    [Sura 9.30] And the Jews say: Uzair is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!

    Sura 5.51 - O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.


    For more, click here.

    I do have my facts straight. Do you have any facts you'd like to share?

    My point is that we should approach peoples of other faith traditions with our eyes open. And we shouldn't make statements just to show how much more tolerant we are than the fundies.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Jesus is a special [noble spirit] to [Jews]. ...but He is denied the central role of Son that our Bible has for Him. You are saved by works alone in [Judaism].

    There are many, many differences however and we can't ignore them. [Jews] won't ignore them regardless of whether or not we ignore them.


    And yes, you're wrong about Islam and salvation by works too.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Jim, again my point is that the PC(USA) has long ago written similar statements about the common heritage and need to reach out to Jews, even though we have some pretty substantial doctrinal differences. Folks like Viola Larson are now in the uncomfortable position of attacking overtures like this one on the basis of orthodoxy, while bending over backwards to accommodate Judaism, because (FINALLY) it is no longer acceptable for Christians to trash Jews. The argument against outreach to Jews a generation ago were almost verbatim to the statements you just made about Islam.

    And who the hell is Nathan? What is with this voyeuristic obsession of yours?

    ReplyDelete
  11. As the Koran says in Surah 2:62:

    Those who believe, Jews, Nazarenes and Sabaeans whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds shall be rewarded by their Lord; they have nothing to fear nor are they saddened.

    As Surah 3:64 says:

    'People of the Book, let us come to a common word between us and you that we will worship none except Allah, that we will associate none with Him, and that none of us take others for lords besides Allah. '

    Surah 5:68 says,

    'People of the Book, you are not upon anything until you establish the Torah and the Gospel and that which is sent down to you from your Lord.'

    ReplyDelete
  12. Fly, there's one little glitch in your comment.

    Fly (I'm not Nathan) wrote---Jesus is a special [noble spirit] to [Jews]. ...but He is denied the central role of Son that our Bible has for Him. You are saved by works alone in [Judaism].

    There are many, many differences however and we can't ignore them. [Jews] won't ignore them regardless of whether or not we ignore them.


    You paraphrased MY WORDS not the language of the Newton Presbytery's overture. :-0

    I'm not 100% against NP's statement btw, just that parts of it are contradictory and they need to be rewritten.

    Nathan is a man from Atlanta that fits much of your profile (Candler student, GLBT activism, one sister etc.) and even specializes in domestic partnership rights. He is your age and highly educated which matches your knowledge of the legal history of marriage and the church. Just thought you might have been him. I guess I was wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Mystical
    As Christians, we do need to focus on those verses (the first two, the third is in the context that our Torah and gospel were corrupted) because the Muslim extremists are ignoring them and they are violating the Qur'an. It's an unresolved contradiction which, unfortunately, the extremists can explain away fairly easily. The most common argument is that these others who now believe are converts.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Jim,

    In other words, what you are saying is that a Holy Scripture provides support for different kinds of interpretations about how to deal with the outside world, some of which support tolerance and respect, and others which support bigotry and fundamentalism.

    Sounds a lot like the Bible.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Jim writes, "I'm not 100% against NP's statement btw, just that parts of it are contradictory and they need to be rewritten."

    Well, I like to keep track of what the "other side" is saying, and I saw several posts around the ol' blogosphere about this topic today as I was surfing.

    And I couldn't help but notice, Jim, that on your own blog you label your own discussion of this under the tag "heresies." And, on another site you wrote, "I'd like to think that this is pure naive stupidity but it clearly shows an apathy or even a hostility toward Christ. This is not Christianity."

    Odd. Unless there are two Jim Jordans, perhaps?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hello Alan
    There is a Jim Jordan who wants to reach out to Muslims. There is also a Jim Jordan who cannot sign on to uninformed stupidity. I humbly suggest that these two positions are not contradictory (unlike the overture) and that Jim Jordan is one person......me.

    ReplyDelete
  17. MS wrote---In other words, what you are saying is that a Holy Scripture provides support for different kinds of interpretations about how to deal with the outside world, some of which support tolerance and respect, and others which support bigotry and fundamentalism.

    Sounds a lot like the Bible.


    So the Bible provides support for bigotry and fundamentalism?
    Do you see why this attitude is hostile to Christ?

    ReplyDelete
  18. So the Bible provides support for bigotry and fundamentalism?

    There are certainly bigots and fundamentalists who think so. (Or haven't you heard about all the people who think that the Bible condemns homosexuality?)

    The ability of scriptures to provide support for a diverse set of interpretations just seems to come with the territory. The same Bible that says "Thou Shalt Not Kill" claims that God ordered the people of Israel to commit genocide against the Canaanites. The same Bible that says that there is neither "male nor female" in Christ also says that women should be silent in church.

    That's why there are so many differing theologies out there, all from people who claim the Bible as support. Of course, each of them manages to think that their interpretation is the right one and the others are in the wrong. Funny how that works.

    ReplyDelete
  19. "There is a Jim Jordan who wants to reach out to Muslims. There is also a Jim Jordan who cannot sign on to uninformed stupidity. I humbly suggest that these two positions are not contradictory (unlike the overture) and that Jim Jordan is one person......me."

    Don't forget the third Jim Jordan, the one who claims that "uninformed stupidity" is "heresy".

    Hard to keep track of all these personalities! LOL

    ReplyDelete
  20. Uninformed stupidity can't be heresy? If we're not going to actually discuss the overture, this will be my last comment. Regards.

    ReplyDelete
  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  22. "Uninformed stupidity can't be heresy? If we're not going to actually discuss the overture, this will be my last comment. Regards."

    Actually, no it can't, as the Greek root of heresy means "choose". Typically heresy is defined as an explicit denial of church doctrine. Sorry, I just get annoyed when people throw around the words heretic and/or apostate anytime they find something with which they disagree.

    I also find the use of different language in this case, curious. It might lead one to believe that your comments here are, perhaps, slightly disingenuous based on a plain reading of your very different comments elsewhere.

    And if you disagree with me you're a heretic. :)

    ReplyDelete
  23. I know this may surprise you, Jim, but I have my own reasons for maintaining a certain amount of mystery concerning my identity, your weird stabs at searching the Emory student directory (and their family histories) and logging IP addresses notwithstanding. Let it go.

    ---

    My point on reframing your statement in opposition to the Newton Presbytery overture is to point out that the overture is very similar to previous statements the denomination has made in regards to interfaith dialogue with Jews. Your exact same argument, coming from a place of orthodoxical purity, could be used to object to the same interfaith statements regarding Judaism.

    So what makes interfaith dialog with Muslims a "heresy", but dialog with Jews laudable?

    Shouldn't we as a people of faith be open to discussions with ALL faith traditions, even if it is just to say that while we disagree on the nature of God, we agree on the things that we need to do in society to serve God?

    ReplyDelete
  24. In my blog, I recently quoted from a podcast that featured Dr. Eboo Patel, a Muslim who engages in interfaith work. He told a great story about religious intolerance, and it is such a great story that I am going to repeat it here:

    I was in Australia six or eight months ago at an interfaith conference, and they had lined up this very angry Christian preacher and this very imposing looking Muslim imam in this kind of typical duke-it-out kind of thing that drives me berserk. And the Christian started off, and he just said slanderous, horrible, prejudicial things about Islam. About how the prophet, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, you know, was a murderer and all, things that are very very difficult to hear. How the Koran is a book of death, and how Muslims have done nothing but pillaged and raped throughout their whole history. And, you know, I run an interfaith organization, and I found myself, like whispering underneath my breath, to the Muslim imam, you know, as I was sitting in the audience, "Tell about all the violence that Christianity has done!" And the Muslim imam listens to all of this very calmly. And when the man is done, this Christian turns to the imam, the imam says, "I love Jesus. And I love the Bible. And do not expect me to say negative things about your religion only because you have said negative things about mine. Because there is too much love and mercy in my heart to do that."

    And I though to myself, not only is that as beautiful a thing as I've ever seen in my life, but it's such a smart strategy. Why am I going to respond to your bigoted remarks by bigoted remarks of my own? My hope is to articulate what I love about your tradition and to teach you what you might love about mine, and to point to a space where we might work together to serve others.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Perhaps "lazy preaching" is a better label than "heresies", Alan.

    Good insights, MS and Fly,
    Fighting over the past is only a source of endless fighting. A Muslim who has the right approach to interfaith dialog is Moez Massoud, a young Egyptian TV show host. He focuses on the peaceful language of the Qur'an and gives it priority over the calls to volence.

    However, rushing to say we share a common God, as the overture states, is incorrect. The character of Allah is far different than the God of our Scriptures. Jesus is His Son in one and only a special prophet in another. The lumping together with the God of Judaism is a non-sequitir; their Scriptures are the same as ours.

    Instead we should be calling Christians to better explain to Muslims and members of other religions why we have such complete trust in Jesus Christ (a 1 Peter 3:15 opportunity). First, we need to know our own principles by rote and second, we need to know theirs. The denominations should be calling for studies of other religions and how Christians can approach them.

    Working together with Muslim churches on common values is a good thing. Did you know that Muslims are anti-abortion? Now there's a start!

    ReplyDelete
  26. The character of Allah is far different than the God of our Scriptures. Jesus is His Son in one and only a special prophet in another. The lumping together with the God of Judaism is a non-sequitir; their Scriptures are the same as ours.

    I think a lot of Jews would be surprised to hear that their unitarian God has the same character as the Trinitarian God of Christianity.

    And you will find that some Jews resent the fact that Christians use the Jewish scriptures as Christianity's own, because they believe that Christians have misused and misinterpreted them for Christianity's own purposes.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Yes, Mystical, but that's a difference in interpretation, not a category error. And a Jewish and Christian scholar observe the same totem pole. One says its gray, the other says its blue. It's still the same totem pole. Now a Muslim scholar comes along and looks at his stone altar; he's not going to believe it's a totem pole.

    You sound very disenchanted with Christianity. Sorry to hear that. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  28. I'm not disenchanted with Christianity--just certain forms of it.

    I don't accept the idea that the Jewish unitarian God is a minor little matter of interpretive differences from the Trinitarian Christian God while the God of Allah is radically different from that of both Judaism and Christianity. In fact, it seems to me that the Jewish God is closer to the Muslim God than to the Christian God of the Nicene Creed, because at least those two faiths reject Trinitarianism.

    I think what we have here is a case of special pleading. The reality is that all three faiths both resemble one another and are different from one another in many ways. Many Christians like to believe that their religion is just like Judaism except for a few details here or there, which lies behind this idea that the two faiths are so close while Islam is this alien religion far removed from the other two. We even have this term, "Judaeo-Christian", which propagates this myth. Jews will sometimes try to disabuse Christians of the notion that Judaism so closely resembles Christianity, but a lot of Christians are so fixated on the idea that it usually does no good. I wrote about this last November in my blog, when I commented on an interfaith "dialogue" between a conservative Christian and a Jew, in which the Christian continually made assumptions that the two faiths shared common paradigms. The Jew tried to explain that this wasn't the case, but the Christian just couldn't accept that.

    I suspect part of the reason for this is that Christianity has tended to see itself as the true legitimate successor to Judaism, so given that it just tends to see the two faiths as more similar than they really are.

    The real problem, though, is the assumption that the "character" of God is proclaimed consistently throughout the Bible, when in fact it is not. Lots of theological concepts evolve through the Bible, including the nature of God and how God relates to the world. Figuring out God's nature is an ongoing process, and religions not only can disagree among themselves on the the details about God, but within themselves as well. The Karen Armstrong book "A History of God" is not my favorite book--it is long and tedious in my view--but one thing that you do take away from that is just how must ideas about God have developed, evolved, been debated and discussed within all the great monotheistic Abrahamic faiths--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Given that, the idea that there is some sort of uncrossable gulf between the Gods of any two of those religions just makes no sense. All three faiths believe in God, and they have worked out details that in many cases differ from the other faiths. So there is much that is in common, and much that is different. I think that trying to wish away or minimize the differences between Judaism and Christianity while maximizing the differences with Islam does not do interfaith dialogue any good.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Amen, MS. You're absolutely right that Jews find the Christian God a bit alien. There is no concept of a trinity, so no Holy Spirit and no Messiah as God (a LOT of Christians don't understand this last part).

    Jim, I ask you again, why is interfaith dialog with Muslims a "heresy", but interfaith dialog with Jews laudable? Isn't dialog with people of all faiths necessary in these times?

    BTW, a surefire way to bring an interfaith dialog to an abrupt halt is to whip out one's Bible and quote verses that explain why the other person is going to Hell unless they immediately answer the altar call. A key to getting a decent dialog is an agreement that you're not there to convert each other, but to educate each other.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Mystical,
    Can you point to any Koranic instance of Allah rebuking Mohammed or his fellow Muslims for straying from the faith? The God of the OT is far more interactive than Allah. Not to mention that the text is totally different. I see it as a superficial statement that Allah and Yahweh are more alike than Yahweh and the God of the NT. We have a tendency in my opinion to harden the OT God more than He really was and soften the Jesus of our NT until He looks like the Jesus of 'South Park'.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Mystical Seeker,
    notice the Overture does not say that the three faiths worship gods that have much in common but rather they worship a common God but understand that God differently.

    Those are two very different ideas. One could say that the authors of the overture are insisting that none of the three faiths knows anything about God since they all think of God differently. That is an insult to all three faiths.

    As for Christians and Jews worshiping the same God there are several points that could be made. Of course I have, already, on my blog made one. That is, that both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament speak about Jesus; the Old Testament shadowing him as both redeemer and deity the New Testament giving the reality.

    Another point is that the God of Islam is transcendent to the maxim, one does not argue with Allah as Abraham and others did with Yahweh. Allah does not plead with his people in the same redemptive manner that Yahweh does, rather he expects humanity to live up to all that is in the Qur’an and on their own. But we see the God of the Hebrew Bible saying such things as “though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18), and God’s people saying such things as “But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol for he will receive me.” (Psalm 49:15)

    Beyond that if one truly believes that Jesus Christ is God, and the one who reveals the Father then they must reject this overture. Of course if you do not believe in the deity of Jesus Christ or his redemption I don’t think anyone can fault you for agreeing with the overture. But that is not a Christian position to take.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Mystical, there is plenty of evidence for the Trinity in the OT.
    In Genesis 1, how does the Spirit of God "hover over the waters" if He's in Heaven? How does He wrestle with Jacob, lead the Israelites through the desert, counsel Gideon, talk to Minoah, have lunch with Abram, call out to Samuel, etc. etc.? The Lord our God is one, but the OT God also gets around pretty well for one dude. Of course, if He can manifest Himself in various ways, as He does in the OT, that describes a Trinity. It is not a whacked out interpretation.

    ReplyDelete
  33. One could say that the authors of the overture are insisting that none of the three faiths knows anything about God since they all think of God differently. That is an insult to all three faiths.

    I disagree. I would argue that there is a huge difference between saying that various religions all have developed complementary or incomplete understandings of the vastness of God's infinite nature on the one hand, and saying that they know nothing about God at all on the other. It is only insulting to those people of faith who think they know the entire scope of all the truth about God. Those who approach the Divine with a perspective of humility and respect might not be so insulted.

    That is, that both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament speak about Jesus

    In one breath in you complain about insulting all three faiths, and then in the next breath you make precisely the sort of statement that Jews find really insulting. Be that as it may, even if you think that the Old Testament speaks of Jesus, Jews do not think so, and their concept of God excludes the Trinity. It is not so easy to sweep this under the rug. Judaism rejects the Trinity. Saying that Jews ought to accept the Trinity because they just don't know how to read their scriptures correctly is all well in good, but the reality of modern Judaism as it exists, regardless of what you or anything else thinks it should be, is to categorically reject the Trinity. To turn around and ignore this huge difference in the Christian and Jewish concepts of God is truly amazing. I repeat my earlier assertion--in that sense, Judaism as it exists in the real world comes closer to the strict monotheism of Islam than it does to the Trinitarianism of Christianity.

    Mystical, there is plenty of evidence for the Trinity in the OT.

    Not only do I disagree with this, but I would argue that there is no real evidence for it in the New Testament. But that is really neither here nor there. The point is that, once again, Jews do not in the real world (not in a fantasy world of what Christians think Jews should do) believe that there is a shred of evidence for the Trinity in the Hebrew Bible, and to ignore this and to assume that Jewish perspective can be so easily piggybacked onto the Christian one as if it were the same theology without even taking into consideration the reality of what Jews think is to treat Judaism as sort of second-class Christians who think like Christians do even if they don't know it.

    But we see the God of the Hebrew Bible saying such things as “though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18), and God’s people saying such things as “But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol for he will receive me.”

    Interesting you should mention Sheol. This is yet another example of the fact that within both Judaism and Christianity there is not one concept of God, but many. Does God grant people an afterlife? The concept of an afterlife did not originate in Jewish thought until just a couple of centuries before CHrist. Even in Jesus's time, the Sadducees retained the traditional Jewish rejection of an afterlife. Here we have an evolving concept of God's relationship with people. But forget about the afterlife. Does God reward the righteous in this lifetime? A lot of the Proverbs would say yes. Ecclesiastes says no. The point is that the Bible isn't even internally consistent on what God does. So if Christianity and Judaism can manage to live with different concepts of God within their faith, then certainly they can live with different concepts of God across faiths. Of course, this would require jettisoning the naive idea that theology somehow dropped out of the sky and never changed in the course of religious history.

    The whole attitude here is a curious mix of religious intolerance on the one hand (against Islam in particular) and a faux tolerance on the other hand (towards Jews, on the assumption that they think pretty much like Christians do about God.) I find it a little amazing.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Mystical Seeker,
    You undoubtedly disagree with me because you see all religious beliefs as human development. All orthodox believers believe in divine revelation. That means they have been insulted by this overture. So perhaps I should revise my statement to say orthodox believers of the three faiths have been insulted.

    This overture is supposedly written and recommended by Christians. It is going to be voted on by Christians. So what I am saying about the Jewish God and the Christian God is from a Christian and the whole Bible, OT, NT point of view. The Jewish people can do their own voting and I won’t mind: ) Biblically I believe it is the same God.

    I would simply disagree with what you are saying about the contradictory views of the Bible—and I would have to write a whole book to clarify. While I do believe that God revealed Himself in a gradual way first with the Torah, the Prophets and Writings and finally in Jesus Christ; it is always truth built upon truth. (And remember I didn’t say the Jewish people thought of God as Christians. I said their Holy texts reveals Jesus Christ and Christians believe they worship the same God.)

    ReplyDelete
  35. I said their Holy texts reveals Jesus Christ and Christians believe they worship the same God.

    I think they worship the same God, too, but that's because I think it is possible to worship the same God even if you disagree about theological details. So either you are saying that these theological differences between Jews and Christians don't really exist, or that they exist but they are irrelevant. If the former, this is just a case of denial, since Jews actually believe in a God who exhibits clear differences from the God of Christianity. If the latter, then this is a case of special pleading, since it treats the theological differences by a different standard than it treats Christians and Muslims differently than it treats the differences between Christians and Jews.

    It would be a lot more logically consistent to stop being in denial about the fact that Jews and Christians view God differently. I'm not sure which I find more amazing--this double standard towards differences with Jewish theology versus differences with Muslim theology, or the idea that the differences with Jewish theology don't really matter because they don't really know that their theology is wrong. The former seems to be just a case of religious intolerance, while the latter is a case of religious arrogance. It isn't hard to see why a lot of Jews find Christian arrogance so annoying.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Mystical---It would be a lot more logically consistent to stop being in denial about the fact that Jews and Christians view God differently.

    Of course we view God differently. We come to God through Jesus Christ. The Jews do not. But it is still the same God, the same Scriptures, at least as our foundation.

    The Qur'an is not the same Scripture. The Qur'an states that the Torah and Gospel were corrupted - that the Scriptures that Jews and Christians see as divinely inspired are corrupted beyond repair. Is that arrogance on the part of the Muslims? No, it's simply what they believe.

    If you put a Christian, a Jew and a Muslim side by side, each one will think they know the truth. If they don't, they'd be nominal. Why then do you take such umbrage in the fact that Christians think they're right? Everyone thinks they have it right. You think you're right, don't you?

    ReplyDelete
  37. Of course we view God differently. We come to God through Jesus Christ. The Jews do not. But it is still the same God, the same Scriptures, at least as our foundation.

    That's the only difference? Same God? A Trinitarian God is different from God as Judaism views it. This idea that Trinitarianism is not a significant difference with Judaism is just silly. It isn't the same. Ask any Jew. Just saying that it is the same God doesn't make it so. The Jews don't have a Trinity. And you don't interpret the scriptures the same way that Jews do. Just because you share certain scriptures, that doesn't mean your theology or views about God are the same, and it is more than just the fact that Jews don't consider Jesus to be their Messiah. It actually ticks a lot of Jews off that Christians use the Old Testament in the way they do to support Christian theology. This is the problem that so many Christians just don't get--they continue to insist that their religion is practically the same as Judaism except for that little matter of Jesus. It just ain't so. Jews have a different paradigm.

    If you put a Christian, a Jew and a Muslim side by side, each one will think they know the truth. If they don't, they'd be nominal. Why then do you take such umbrage in the fact that Christians think they're right? Everyone thinks they have it right. You think you're right, don't you?

    I don't take umbrage at people thinking they are right. I take umbrage at people thinking other people are wrong. I don't care if you are a Christian, Jew, or Muslim--people of any of those faiths can be either tolerant or intolerant. I think it is the height of presumption to assert that people of other faiths than one's own don't relate spiritually to the Divine just because their theology is different. Fine, think that your theology is right all you want. I think that I am right, sure. But I don't tell other people that they are not relating to God just because I disagree with them on matters of theology. I think that all of them are connecting in some way to the Divine. And this is the reason why I object to religious intolerance.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I don't take umbrage at people thinking they are right. I take umbrage at people thinking other people are wrong.

    Pardon me, Mystical, but does that make sense to you? If I think I am right about Jesus Christ being the specific hand of God to us, and the Muslims and Jews disagree, then they think I'm wrong and I thing they're wrong. What's the difference?

    How can I be right about Jesus being the only way and Muslims be right about Mohammed being the only way?

    The "all beliefs are valid" belief breaks the law of non-contradiction. Jesus is the only way and NOT the only way at the same time. And if all roads are valid [were it possible] then where is the need for tolerance? There is no friction if everyone is right.

    The worst thing here is that you are confused as to where you stand and here you are asserting yourself to people who are not confused.

    MS---But I don't tell other people that they are not relating to God just because I disagree with them on matters of theology.

    Neither do I. Who can say such a thing without intervening in how God wants to approach His creation? I think the bogeyman of intolerance might be a figment of your own imagination.

    ReplyDelete
  39. If you stop believing that "Jesus is the only way", you've solved the problem, haven't you?

    There do happen to be Christians who believe that.

    ReplyDelete
  40. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Geez,

    Pardon me, but what a mess.

    Muslims do not believe Mohamed is the only way. They believe the Koran, in Arabic, is the only way.

    (they like the ideas of authority of scripture and progressive revelation)

    Jesus said he is the only way. He was speaking of himself. Of his authority and power. He was not speaking about Christians, or Christianity, or Byzantine definitions of orthodoxy. He was specifically saying it was nobody's business but his own how a person comes to God.

    So why argue about what you have to believe or think? That is how you turn good news into bad news.

    We believe anybody who professes Jesus as Lord will be saved. That is good news. But somehow, centuries ago, the Byzantines turned that into "anybody who does not profess Jesus as Lord and in our authoritative interpretation will be damned". That is not what Jesus said. That is bad news.

    So when Muslims say they worship Allah and proclaim devotion to him, and stop everything they are doing five times a day to pray and to put themselves right with him, it is no business of ours to say that ElYah does not listen to them. If the widows we make cry to him for justice, shall we have the chutzpah to say our God is not listening? Will the blood of the innocent not cry out to the heavens as it has in ancient times? Will Jesus not provide them a path to his father?

    Such foolhardy arrogance boggles the mind!

    And invites God's wrath like no other invitation in the new or old testaments alike.

    No, I think praying for our Muslim neighbors, and confessing our own sins of arrogance, racism, and indiscriminate violence are better paths. We are called to love our Muslim neighbors as we love ourselves, and give them the same permissions we give ourselves: to worship God as they see fit, to pray as they choose, and to let Jesus decide how he wants to treat them.

    We are called to be good news and not bad.

    We are still free to teach them what Jesus taught, about loving your neighbor, about being the prince of peace, about caring for the disenfranchised, about praying for your enemies, about walking the extra mile for them, about obeying and serving the Son of God who sits at the right hand of God the father and who someday will come to judge the living and the dead, with or without Mohamed at his side.

    You just can't usurp the Lordship of Christ while you teach the Lordship of Christ. That's the fine line the Evangelicals seem to always cross. That's the line the liberals are trying to respect.

    May the best news win the hearts of men and women everywhere. And may the living Jesus be Lord, not some dated monolithic idol of Jesus. Let him be the Path that he said he is.

    ReplyDelete
  42. I liked what Doorman-Priest said.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Mystical---If you stop believing that "Jesus is the only way", you've solved the problem, haven't you?

    There do happen to be Christians who believe that.


    Then why would they be Christians?

    Jodie, No mess, Muslims confess Allah and that Mohammed is His Prophet. And, no, no one is damning the others by saying Jesus is the only way. What "only way" means is that He is the one we will come face to face with regardless of what our faith is because He is who He said He is. That sounds to me exactly what you are describing.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Brilliantly put, Jodie.

    As I've mentioned before, my pastor and the Rabbi from the temple down the street are good friends (largely as a result of their advocacy work for homeless children). We have semi-regular interfaith sessions (one was on the story of Joseph, another was on Jewish and Christian responses to environmental issues) that are well-attended by both folks from our church and from the temple. Most of the time, the dialog goes something like "well, we as Christians believe that we should..." and "we as Jews believe the Torah teaches...", then both groups get down to business. Nobody is trying to convert the other, and it helps that Presbyterianism and Judaism are not inherently evangelical (in the sense that we don't feel a personal responsibility to save souls--God took care of that).

    The fact that so many Christians have so many weird misconceptions about BOTH Judaism and Islam points to the need for more open, honest and respectful dialog. And no matter how conservative Christians may try to paint "Allah" that Muslims worship as some sort of demon (Christians and Jews in Arabic-speaking countries also call God "Allah"), all three groups do in fact worship Abraham's God, just in radically different ways.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Then why would they be Christians?

    Because that's the path they choose.

    And no matter how conservative Christians may try to paint "Allah" that Muslims worship as some sort of demon (Christians and Jews in Arabic-speaking countries also call God "Allah"), all three groups do in fact worship Abraham's God, just in radically different ways.

    That's very well put, Flycandler.

    ReplyDelete
  46. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  47. If it follows that the orthodox Christian God is the same as the Jewish God simply because orthodox Christians use Jewish scriptures (plus some of their own), then consider the example of Mormons and orthodox Christians. Mormons use the orthodox Christian scriptures as their own (plus some of their own), and yet no one would argue that the Mormon concept of God matches that of the orthodox Christian concept. In fact, the Mormon concept of God is quite different. The point is that merely because one faith uses another faith's scriptures, that really means nothing. The new faith can easily reinterpret the old scriptures in new ways that contradict what the original faith believes. And this is precisely what orthodox Christianity has done with the Jewish God by radically redefining God as a Trinity.

    Again, none of this means that I think that Jews and Christians both don't worship God. They do. I also think that Christians and Muslims worship God. But trying to use the scriptures as the basis for whether they worship the same God or not is meaningless, as the example of Mormonism illustrates.

    And the fact that radically different and opposing theologies can appear within the Jewish scriptures also illustrates another take on this problem. Viola claims that these evolving concepts never contradicted one another but rather were simply truth built upon truth--which is rather hard to swallow given that, for example, completely opposite views about teh afterlife were believed at various times in Jewish history (saying that there is no afterlife is the direct opposite of saying that there is an afterlife, for example.)

    There are differences between religious traditions, there are differences within religious traditions, and yet among these various Abrahamic religions across all the differences there is a desire to worship the One God.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Flycandler, you seem terrified that you might accidentally convert someone. Don't worry, I don't see that happening. :-)

    I repeat I am all for interfaith dialog and mutual projects etc. What I disagree with is wiping our own slate clean in the process. I'll keep my saltiness, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  49. The strawman cometh. Who is arguing that we need to "wipe our slate clean in the process"?

    It's funny when bile gets mistaken for saltiness.

    ReplyDelete
  50. If all paths are equally valid, we HAVE wiped the slate clean, Flycandler. Since you're starting with the insults it means I must be making headway. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  51. "If all paths are equally valid..."

    I must have missed the part where the overture says that.

    ReplyDelete
  52. I was responding specifically to Mystical Seeker, Alan, but the overture says basically the same thing.

    Part 2 - 2. State that the PC(USA) affirms that Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship a common God, 1 although each understands that God differently; and that, as children of this loving God, we share the commandments of love for God and neighbor 2 , the requirement to care for the poor; and acknowledge Abraham as an expression of our common commitment to one God.

    This validates the "many ways" apostasy.

    ReplyDelete
  53. Words like "apostasy" (which is right up there with "heresy") make the hairs of my neck stand up.

    On the one hand, you insist that no one can say that people of other faiths don't relate to God "without intervening in how God wants to approach His creation", and then in the next breath you insist that the idea that anyone who can approach God through other theologies than you own is "apostasy." So if you are not willing to say that Muslims or Jews do not relate to God through their faith, then it is a little difficult to see how you can turn around and call it an "apostasy" to say that Muslims and Jews relate to God through their faith.

    ReplyDelete
  54. I go away for a couple of days, and wham, 55 comments! Thanks for the conversation.

    I am going to go with Jesus the heretic and the apostate, who made enemies with the true believers of his time because he embraced the wrong crowd.

    I think he would have approved of this kind of overture. More importantly, he would have lived it.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Mystical writes---Words like "apostasy" (which is right up there with "heresy") make the hairs of my neck stand up.

    Well, Mystical, you must have been terrified when you wrote "I am a heretic and a seeker on a religious journey" in your profile. 8-0

    then in the next breath you insist that the idea that anyone who can approach God through other theologies than your own is "apostasy."

    It is an apostasy for Christians to say that the other religions are equally valid. Interfaith dialog isn't helped by denigrating our own faith. Jews think they're right, Muslims think they're right and Christians (who aren't confused...) think they're right. So let's all talk, let's all work together, but let's keep our wits about us. That's all I'm saying.

    I feel like I'm giving everyone indigestion so I'll just slither away now. This has been a fun discussion. Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  56. It's okay for me to call myself a heretic. I just don't care so much for other people using it to describe me. :)

    It is an apostasy for Christians to say that the other religions are equally valid.

    "Equally valid" is an interesting concept. I'm pretty sure I never used that term. What I said is that all the Abrahamic religions represent conduits through which they can relate to God, regardless of theologican differences. I am in no position to judge the "equality" of their validity; I'm not really sure what such a concept means.

    To summarize your own position, if I understand you correctly: Jews and Muslims subscribe to a faith that is inferior to Christianity (because the three Abrahamic faiths are not equally valid), but the level of that religious inferiority might not be so great as to prevent them from serving as vehicles through which their adherents could relate to God.

    If you illustrated this by drawing a bar graph of the various faiths and how "valid" they are, the bar labeled "Christianity" would go all the way to the top, and the other religions would not go so high, but still above a dashed line across the graph that would represent the threshold, below which the theology would be so "invalid" that the adherent could not relate to God at all.

    Otherwise, if you are saying that theology is irrelevant for purposes of determining whether a religion can serve as a conduit for a relationship to God, then we are essentially in agreement. That is what I've been saying all along--theological differences between the Abrahamic faiths do not matter for purposes of saying what God they worship.

    ReplyDelete
  57. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Jim, you remind me of Cardinal Richelieu (inventor of the dinner knife) who once said, "If you give me six lines written by the most honest man, I will find something in them to hang him." Nicely done, Jim, you're in good company.

    Nothing in the actual overture says what you try to make it say. Nothing in it says anything about multiple paths to salvation. (and if you think a statement about the historical understanding of God by all three religions is the same thing as a statement about salvation, I'd say you understand neither.)

    But if you're looking for heresy, I have no problem believing that you probably find it wherever you look. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, I suppose.

    ReplyDelete
  59. FWIW, MS, Jim is trashing you on his blog without the courtesy of letting you know.

    It's his MO.

    ReplyDelete
  60. So Jim, are you making the case that the PC(USA) should rescind its 1987 policy (which is remarkably similar) relating to interfaith dialog with Jews? That seems to be the ultimate point here. We're right, everyone else is wrong and hellbound because of it, therefore we shouldn't mix with them and risk impurity.

    If it looks like a fundamentalist, sounds like a fundamentalist and walks like a fundamentalist....

    ReplyDelete
  61. I peeked over at Jim Jordan's blog. I see that he indeed decided to go behind my back. Since I don't read his blog, I would have had no way of knowing that he was attacking my views and I thus had no way of responding to his views. I guess he wasn't really taking his ball home with him so much as moving the game to another venue without telling the other player.

    ReplyDelete
  62. That's hysterically funny, Mystical and Fly. Under the comments is a message in capital letters that reads LINKS TO THIS POST. Hint, it contains a hidden passageway to my secret blog.:-)

    Comments are public information by the way. If you go to Altalvista and type in "Mystical Seeker" you will see every comment he has ever made. Check it out or yourself.

    Two other tiny tadpoles of data, you are anonymous and your quote is unoriginal. If you like I can change "Mystical Seeker" to "Oprah Winfrey". She said the exact same thing you did.

    Surprise, surprise, you're on Candid Internet, amigos. God bless.

    ReplyDelete
  63. Comments are public information by the way.

    You are defending your unethical and childish behavior by expecting me to constantly google myself to figure out if you are talking about me behind my back? Give me a break. Furthermore, since I click directly to the "post a comment screen" from email when I receive notification of new comments, I do not see any links to this post. Sorry, but your shoddy excuse just doesn't cut it.

    You just decided to take the discussion somewhere else without telling me, so you could attack me behind my back without giving me a chance to defend myself.

    ReplyDelete
  64. Holy Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, Batman!

    Just wandered over to Jim's blog to see what all the hub-bub was about. Sheesh! Fly: Looks like you got yourself quite the little stalker there! How creep-tastic. Beware of bunnies boiling on your stove.

    ReplyDelete
  65. Alan, Flycandler has been stalking and talking my ear off for almost a year now. That's why I know so much about him. He doesn't even have a blog. He keeps coming back. I don't know why.

    This very blog routinely takes comments by folks at the IRD and from other blogs and reposts them for discussion including harsh criticism. They do the same to Pastor Shuck's comments.

    Mystical, if you want to defend yourself on my blog, go ahead.

    ReplyDelete
  66. Do know that Our Jim has comment moderation enabled and will refuse to allow posts he doesn't like.

    Yes, Alan, I am very creeped out. I figure I may as well give him my Social Security Number and get it over with.

    ReplyDelete
  67. Ah...that old MO, eh? If a conversation isn't going the way one wants, then bring it back to one's own blog where one's dittoheads and sockpuppets can give the ol' ego boost one so desperately needs. Then moderate comments to keep out the undesirables. "Look! Everyone agrees with me! They love me, they really love me!" How touching.

    Meh. Speaking of touching. No one who is cataloging that much personal data on someone else is interested in identity theft, Fly. Your bank account is safe, I'd wager. Looks to me like a laundry list of where someone would hang out if they were going to ask you out on a date. Just tell him you're not interested in him in "that way". Be firm and assertive.

    ReplyDelete
  68. It still doesn't work! He's got this fantasy of bisexual three-ways that he can't get over! (shudder)

    ReplyDelete
  69. Definitely freek-tabulous. And he can read your mind, apparently. Might I suggest the ever-popular tin-foil hat?

    ReplyDelete
  70. It still doesn't work! He's got this fantasy of bisexual three-ways that he can't get over!

    Really good, Mcfly...and totally false of course. You demonstrate exactly why I started comment moderation. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  71. Dude, whatever floats your boat. One could almost hear the saliva dripping onto your keyboard as you kept yammering on about "triads".

    Funny how you conflate "totally false" with "embarrassing for me" with such ease.

    ReplyDelete