Tuesday, February 27, 2007

An Answer to Ken and other Catholics:


Link


Because Blogspot does not permit me to copy the answer I posted on Ken's site (www.timeimmortal.net) onto mine, I'm making my reply it's own post. To "catch-up" with our on-going disscussion, I urge you to read the preceding post and it's comments, and then come back to this one.

Ken,
I am not inclined to answer your comments line by line, as you do mine, so I will simply comment on a few of your thoughts that “jumped out at me.”

First, Muhammad has introduced billions of people, who rejected Judaism and Christianity, to Abraham’s God. For you, and other Christians, to dismiss him and his religion as “frauds” has always astounded me! Evidently, pronouncing—and believing--yourselves right is far more important to you than the billions of people who learned about God without your help! Muhammad perceived Jesus as the Messiah, but not as “God incarnate,” and for you to belittle him because he disagrees with you and your church bespeaks the very “self-satisfaction” that repulses so many people and has actually turned them away from God. Granted, you are so content with your own knowledge that you don’t care about who rejects you, but your “deep down” contempt for others, in itself, brings your understanding into doubt! And while you glibly and arrogantly dismiss Malachi, who offered mankind a way to avoid the “darkness,” I remind you that Jesus cut to the quick of your problem in one sentence: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25).

Second, evidently you haven’t read the Koran carefully—since Muhammad spent more time than any Prophet that preceded him, discussing our omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God. Muhammad did not come to simply repeat the teachings of Jesus or the Hebrew Prophets. He spoke to his desert-hardened people about their God in terms they could understand, and he succeeded in greatly enlarging monotheism’s ranks, without contradicting any of the Prophets! When you glibly dismiss him as “unnecessary,” you are exposing your ignorance of your God that loves all of His images and wants them to know Him!

And third, you have the arrogance to say that “Christians already know, or should already know, everything we need to know about what it means to be subject to God.” That one sentence, in itself, bespeaks such self-satisfaction that it is hard to imagine how on earth you explain the endless bigotry and persecution that so many “Christians” have engaged in, throughout history. I really feel that you—and all who agree with you--have lost touch with reality, in your surety that you and yours are right enough for everyone to embrace your understanding, alone. Thank God He has sent us wiser people than you and your ilk to speak of Him and the Messiah He promised to send us. You would be wise to listen to them, and enlarge your understanding. But then again, as you say, you already “know everything.” I wish you would become wise enough to learn more.

17 comments:

ken said...

I am not inclined to answer your comments line by line, as you do mine, so I will simply comment on a few of your thoughts that “jumped out at me.”

Do feel free.

First, Muhammad has introduced billions of people, who rejected Judaism and Christianity, to Abraham’s God. For you, and other Christians, to dismiss him and his religion as “frauds” has always astounded me! Evidently, pronouncing—and believing--yourselves right is far more important to you than the billions of people who learned about God without your help!

The problem with this statement is that it assumes that the issue of Allah (here taken to mean the deity of Islam) and God (here taken to mean the Judeo-Christian deity) being one and the same is settled. This distinction is not settled, although I think it's worth noting that the polar extreme answers ("Allah = God" and "Allah =/= God") are not correct.

Indeed, the answer is likely found somewhere in the middle. In fact, the best explanation I have yet encountered states that Allah is God, but understood through the lens of an idolatry. That is to say that Allah is a deity who is primarily worshipped for the ways in which He is not like the Christian God.

Islam sprang up on the borders of what was then Christendom, and could spread outward to the pagan East with ease. It did so with something of an approximation of theism as it was understood in the West, taking aspects of Jewish and Christian teaching and (for lack of a better term) simplifying them and re-casting them in the context of a nomadic Arab culture. It was based, in essence, on a reductionism of more complex theologies to simpler principles surrounding a deity of a simpler nature. And it was assumed by its founder to be universal, and to have a universal appeal. In all these ways, it is rather sharply distinguished from Christianity.

The danger with this inherent simplicity is precisely in its lack of complex strictures and structures, which -- when incorporated into a theological system -- are methods of self-correction for that theology. The Catholic Church is a wonderful example of this precisely because of its complex hierarchy and complex, interwoven doctrines. Absent this self-correcting basis, Islam became a highly masculinized, highly biased, and comparatively violent belief system.

Ironically, this arose out of Muhammed's belief that it was to be the universal religion (whereas in Christianity there has always been the understanding that there will be non-Christians in the world). God was solitary, and because God was solitary, the true religion of God was necessarily simple, perfectly incapsulated in the attitude behind the word inshallah. Because the religion was simple, it was felt that all people should follow it; those who did not were killed.

Christians made this same mistake in various historical time frames, and were widely (and rightly) panned for doing so. The reason it was right to point out the Christian error in doing this is precisely because it is not the Christian way: Christ is found at the end of each person's individual search for Him, not through any method of compulsion. Islam is presupposed now on compulsion in religion (it wasn't always -- see some of the early Suras -- but due to its abrogative theological basis it now is), and yet we in the West are only too eager to give it a pass.

The reason I denounce Muhammed as a false prophet is given its basis above: prophets should increase our understanding of God and God's will for His people, and yet Muhammed did neither. The religion he formed revealed no great truths that were previously unknown, and did not expand the world's knowledge of God. In fact, it did the opposite, and subject its understanding of God to a reductionism. Legitimate prophets do not do that.

Muhammad perceived Jesus as the Messiah, but not as “God incarnate,” and for you to belittle him because he disagrees with you and your church bespeaks the very “self-satisfaction” that repulses so many people and has actually turned them away from God.

Actually, most of the people I know who have turned away from God have done so either because they couldn't reconcile scientific knowledge with their faith (which is a pity) or because of some petty issue like women's ordination or homosexual marriages (which, compared to the reality of Christ, seem rather unimportant).

What is more, most orthodox, theologically conservative Christian churches are experiencing net growth. The ones that are diminishing are the ones that embrace the universalist tendencies you espouse (e.g. the Episcopal Church in the U.S. or the United Church in Canada).

Granted, you are so content with your own knowledge that you don’t care about who rejects you, but your “deep down” contempt for others, in itself, brings your understanding into doubt!

If I believe that Christ was God incarnate, the Second person of the Trinity, one in being with the Father in that blessed union, precisely how is my understanding of Christ enhanced by regarding as equally valid the statement that Christ was something less than that? Does not the statement that Christ, though the Messiah, was not God incarnate denigrate my own faith in turn?

I don't think conviction and certainty about one's beliefs casts them into doubt...I think any doubt people feel about my beliefs stem either from their belief in something else, or their confusion about what to believe. I would lump you into the second category, jane B., as I would lump all universalists into it.

The point to be made here is that there are a myriad of stark differences between religions like Islam and Christianity, some of which cannot be overcome simply by saying "you're both carrying a part of the truth". Take Jesus as an example: either Jesus is God incarnate, or He is not. I gain nothing by believing that he is both, just as I gain nothing by believing he is neither. The only gain is by believing that he is one or the other...and the minute you make that leap of faith, you necessarily must regard the opposite viewpoint as incorrect.

And there's nothing wrong with that, and there shouldn't be anything in that to repel people. Since when did certainty in faith and orthodox conviction become a "bad thing"?

And while you glibly and arrogantly dismiss Malachi, who offered mankind a way to avoid the “darkness,” I remind you that Jesus cut to the quick of your problem in one sentence: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25).

You keep dodging my own citation of Jesus, and His warning to avoid the teachings of false prophets. That applies to our understanding of His teaching in this passage from Luke as well, and indeed it is foolish to be slow to believe in all that the legitimate prophets of God have spoken.

Of course, Jesus is here not talking of prophets to come, for He -- being the Son of God, God incarnate, and the full embodiment of God's revelation to humanity -- is the last in the line of prophets that is necessary for us to follow: in His words is the fulfillment of all revelation that came before Him, and indeed the rest of the revelation that we need. That is why the rest of the New Testament either does not contain prophecy, but instead exegesis on Christ's teachings, or else contains prophecy of Christ's return, which is the only thing that we now need to be revealed.

So please don't attempt to use Christ's words to convince me that I ought to pay more attention to Muhammed: if your own understanding of Christ was more advanced that it is currently, you'd understand why Christ renders Muhammed unnecessary (at the very least).

Second, evidently you haven’t read the Koran carefully—since Muhammad spent more time than any Prophet that preceded him, discussing our omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God.

I haven't read the Koran end-to-end, no, but I might point out that devoting large volumes of text to a subject does not mean one is correct about the subject. There is a huge body of literature in support of the Young Earth Creationist philosophy, but that does not mean that it is correct to state that the Earth is a mere 10,000 years old.

Muhammed did indeed talk at great length about God and God's nature...but of what use are his words if his initial understanding of God was flawed?

Muhammad did not come to simply repeat the teachings of Jesus or the Hebrew Prophets. He spoke to his desert-hardened people about their God in terms they could understand, and he succeeded in greatly enlarging monotheism’s ranks, without contradicting any of the Prophets!

I suppose we'll ignore that part where Christ confessed to being the Son of God, then, and indeed that other part where Christ was revealed in the Gospels as being God Himself?

And although Muhammed might not have directly contradicted any of the Hebrew prophets, it should be noted that he also does not really devote meaningful consideration to them, and instead strikes out on his own. Islam is an Abrahamic religion precisely because it shares commonalities with Judeo-Christian teaching only up to Abraham. Beyond that point in Scripture and Sura alike, there are commonalities...but ultimately, they are coincidences more than inspired parallels.

And toward the end of the Koran, where the rocks and trees are crying out "Oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!", the teachings of Islam have indeed broken way with the prophets...why would the trees and rocks bring death upon those whom the prophets have revealed are the chosen people of God?

When you glibly dismiss him as “unnecessary,” you are exposing your ignorance of your God that loves all of His images and wants them to know Him!

I find myself tempted again to suspect that you are politically left-wing, because your style of debate parallels most of my liberal-minded relatives; that is, you never address a counter-point that is made to you, but instead prefer to excerpt choice sound-bites out of my previous statement and then offer a scant gainsaying of said sound-bite and expect this to serve as a refutation to my entire point.

I refer, rather specifically, to the question I posed directly at the end of my previous response, which you have (predictably) glazed over. I'll bold-face it this time, in case you had previously just missed it:

The problem with attempting to learn from “all” the Prophets is that it only leads you to be mired down in contradiction and futility. When two prophets say differing or directly contradicting things, how do you decide what is the truth? Or do you instead decide that neither is telling the truth, and only pick as valid those few things upon which all prophets agree (if any such concepts even exist).

How does it bring you closer to understanding God if you believe that a prophet who says that God is Trinity is telling the truth, and if you also believe that another prophet who says that God is unary is telling the truth? They cannot both be true: a unary entity is a wholly different thing than a trinitarian entity. Do you reject both teachings, then? Okay, so God is neither unary nor Trinity…so what is He?


I can understand your desire that I know God in "all of His images"...but you have not adequately explained how it enhances my understanding of God if I accept as truthful both the view that God is unary and undivided (as Islam asserts) and the view that God is Trinity (which Christianity asserts, and which Islam explicitly regards as blasphemy).

And third, you have the arrogance to say that “Christians already know, or should already know, everything we need to know about what it means to be subject to God.” That one sentence, in itself, bespeaks such self-satisfaction that it is hard to imagine how on earth you explain the endless bigotry and persecution that so many “Christians” have engaged in, throughout history.

Simple...Christians are sinners to, and forget the teachings of Christ at times, or attempt to pervert and sway them into something they are not, usually for political ends.

I'm still in the process of preparing three years of previous blog posts for import into WordPress (my previous blog software was Mambo), and so I regret that I cannot show you yet some of my previous writings. I have always readily acknowledged those times when the Church has gotten things wrong. But the point to be made here is that, despite inquisitions and crusades and what-else-have-you, the actions of a group do not necessarily render invalid the teachings and beliefs of that group, unless the teachings and beliefs of that group are identifiably as wrong as the aforementioned actions.

That's a complicated way of saying that Christianity endures and remains valid in spite of the sinfulness of Christians -- which, in the past, has often been rampant -- because the Christian message, and the teachings of Christ, ultimately contradict and condemn those wrongful acts. Christ was explicit in teaching that conversion cannot be forced, to give one small example ("but if a town reject you, shake the dust of that place from your sandals").

Applying the same litmus test to Islam has some interesting results, but in the interests of preventing apoplexy in yourself I will leave it to the reader to reason that statement to its logical conclusion.

I really feel that you—and all who agree with you--have lost touch with reality, in your surety that you and yours are right enough for everyone to embrace your understanding, alone.

I don't think it's me who is so far out of touch with reality, given that for all of human history religion has been expressed in this way: acceptance of one creed in explicit rejection of all others. That's ultimately what faith is, not some namby-pamby selection of choice bits from a teliological buffet. Faith is precisely the conviction that leads a person to say that he believes "God is One", or that she believes that "God is One but also Three". And there will be a deeper and more profound understanding found between those two rival viewpoints than in the quagmire of believing that both are telling the truth, or that neither is.

Thank God He has sent us wiser people than you and your ilk to speak of Him and the Messiah He promised to send us.

I agree. Would that I could hold a candle to the wisdom of people such as the Pope, but alas, it is not my calling.

You would be wise to listen to them, and enlarge your understanding.

Which reminds me...I have an encyclical study group tomorrow afternoon, and I still have two paragraphs to read in Evangelium Vitae before then.

But then again, as you say, you already “know everything.” Still, I wish you would become wise enough to learn more.

I do attempt to learn more, and I notice that once again you have misunderstood and misquoted me. That's bad enough, but you've also gotten a touch snippy, which is really unfortunate. You'd think, if you were attempting to educate me, that you'd adopt a friendlier, more conciliatory tone.

But I digress. I explicitly did not state that I know everything...I instead said that in Christ, all necessary revelation has been made known, and no later prophet can add unto that teaching. That doesn't mean I understand it completely, nor does it mean I ever will...it just means that it's there, for me to try and understand, and that it being there means I don't need to look to later prophets for additional revelation. I can look to extra-Biblical sources, and often do in my chosen branch of theology (the science/religion dialogue), but even in these sources I do not find anything that is not already revealed in the Bible (except for more explicit descriptions of methods and mechanics -- God using evolution to create humankind, for example).

But again you have not answered my question: what do I learn by believing both that God is unary and that God is Trinity? That sort of debate does not have a "both/and" resolution, but rather an "either/or" (or here used in the explicit sense of the binary XOR) answer. Muhammed and St. Paul cannot both be right on this matter...and given the two opinions to choose from, I'd tend to side with the man who saw not an angel, but Christ himself, in such glory and radiance that he was blinded by it for a lengthy time thereafter.

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