Monday, October 15, 2007

A Common Word Between Us and You

I was just reading this open letter from Muslims to Christians everywhere and a few things occurred to me.
I'm off hiatus now, BTW. I'll be getting back to the comboxes, and anyone interested is welcome to resume the convos there. With the understanding, of course, that I have limited time. But I think most everyone who's ever commented here has been quite good about not bugging me about not getting to their comment in a timely manner, and I appreciate that.

Of note is those to whom the letter is addressed. No one I'd consider a leader worthy of unmitigated or nearly-unmitigated respect. But maybe they're not talking to me.
There's Pope Benedict XVI, a bunch of Orthodox high-ups, the Pope of the Coptic Church (the memorably-named Shenouda), leaders of other historically Christian churches, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the ELCA, the World Methodist Council, the Baptist World Alliance, and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. It would have been nice to see a bone thrown to someone like SBC Pres Frank Page, John MacArthur, Al Mohler... even Billy/Franklin Graham. As it is, a significant portion of their supposed audience goes unaddressed.
And they lose points for addressing the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, to be honest.

Reading thru the actual text, I note that this (Muslim-penned) document frequently refers to "the Unity of God". Given that this is not a theological document but rather a start of dialogue ostensibly aimed at producing peaceful relations, it is a little funny to me. Almost like the authors are tossing a few snips at the Trinitarian concept of God while laying out peace. It's what I would do, honestly. But maybe I'm just reading too much into it, and either way it's just a quirky sidenote. All that to say, when a Muslim says "Unity of God," he doesn't mean it the same way a Christian does - "unity" to the Muslim entails an (unjustifiable) assumption of unitarianism.

The document's big gaffe is almost unbelievable in its clumsiness. On the .pdf page 15 of 29, it asks: "Is Christianity necessarily against Muslims?"
The answer, of course, is that this question is silly. Christian doctrine is that men everywhere must repent and request forgiveness for their sins from the Savior Jesus Christ, which will lead to their salvation from that sin and to eternal life. Where did the idea that Christianity might be against Muslims come from, so that they added the word "necessarily"? This alone is almost enough to tempt me seriously to disregard this document entirely, as either disingenuous or just ill-conceived.
A much better question is: "Is Christianity necessarily against Islam?" to which the answer is "yes."
Or one could ask: "Are Christians against Muslims?" to which the answer is: "Any Christian who acts without love against a Muslim who is not attempting to blow him up or something is acting in a sinful manner."

We are then told: "We therefore invite Christians to consider Muslims not against and thus with them, in accordance with Jesus Christ’s words here," based on three out-of-context quotations from Jesus Christ in Matt 12:30, Mark 9:40, and Luke 9:50.
To be honest, when I meet a Muslim in the US, I look on him/her as almost certainly a peaceful person who is a sinner, but also with a greater amount of suspicion than that with which I look upon an Argentine, a Chinese, or a Singaporean.
I'm glad these authors invite me to consider them "with" me (I assume they mean with me in the pursuit of peace on earth), but I have to withhold unconditional acceptance of that from "Muslims" until I see more than a kind of poorly-written document from some Islamic scholars.

Finally, the authors (again, clumsily) seem to lose track of the goal of their document with this closing statement: "Let this common ground be the basis of all future interfaith dialogue between us, for our common ground is that on which hangs all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:40)."
I'm not interested in "interfaith dialogue" as it is usually meant in modern parlance. Followers of Islam need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and need to repent and believe it. "Interfaith dialogue" might be a good vehicle thru which such might be accomplished, so on that level it's great. But it must not become the end for the Christian, b/c it is pitiful in its short-sightedness.

That said, I come away from this document a little more hopeful that the attitude expressed therein can lead to more peace in this world. I hate war. May God grant the people of the world reprieve from war. I need to see alot more from the Muslim side, however, before I could have a lot of optimism that the hostility endemic to their religious system has been conquered by modern sensibilities. One document does not erase Qur'anic statements directing Muslims to conduct violent jihad nor their bloody history of military expansion.


David Bryan said...

We could just open up unimpeded diplomatic relationships between the US and Arabia for a start--the liberalizing effect contact with our country has would, at the very least, lead to a greater aversion among the people of Arab nations to suicide-bomber-type people...

Anonymous said...

Given the last 500 years of bad behavior and humongous wars and oppression carried out by Christian nations against the people and creatures of the earth, I'd say I want to see more, alot more, from the Christian side.

Muslims can rule and leave others to their culture, but Judaism and Christianity can't make the accomodations that the Muslims are commanded to make by their scripture.

As it is the civilation created by Christianity is unsustainable. It's sweeping the earth, devouring everything in sight, and is heading into the final stages of self destruction even if all Muslims were to disappear tomorrow.

Rhology said...

David Bryan,

By "Arabia," do you mean Arab countries in general?
And yeah I see what you mean - that's what I'd like to see with Cuba as well. But I want to see STRONGER visa restrictions and such for Arab countries at the same time.


What bad behavior do you refer to? What wars?
More importantly, what nations are Christian?
And you DO realise, don't you, that Islam started in a corner of the Arabian peninsula and has expanded MILITARILY to encompass the territory it now occupies, right? Was it not virtually all military conquest? Was not N Africa, for example, pretty much exclusively Christian and animist before the rise of Islam? Egypt?

Muslims can rule and leave others to their culture, but Judaism and Christianity can't make the accomodations that the Muslims are commanded to make by their scripture.

If you ignore history, yeah, you can say that. Absolutely.

As it is the civilation created by Christianity is unsustainable.

When you froth at the mouth, is the foam green too?


Rhology said...

Here's another example of Anonymous-like stupidity:

Aqqaluk Lynge, head of the Inuit Circumpolar Council's Greenland chapter, agrees. "We are afraid that the United States will take over Greenland if the Danes get out," he says. "If Americans can take Iraq, then why not Greenland?"

Well, I can think of 5 reasons off the top of my head...

John Morales said...

ERT said...

I finally got a chance to read through the "common word" and it does seem very limiting on the biblical side, as well as I'm sure on the Islamic side. They pick and choose what they want, and leave out the context of the passages that give the excerpts their true meaning.

I think one key assumption the authors have in this document is that the God of the bible, who is "One" is the same as Allah of the Koran/Hadith. Maybe this should be explored a bit more closely before we "unite" under the love for one God.

To note, even their paths of salvation are completely different, exemplified in the statement from the "common word" on pg 5: "... on the Day of Judgement when it matters the most and when we hope to be forgiven for our sins." This is categorically different than the God of the bible who provides a SURE salvation by His grace through faith in JC.

Just some thoughts about it.
Peace from LB...ERT