Sunday, 6 January 2008

Comments

I think many people's reactions have not been strong enough. I offered my own thoughts here:
http://www.metacatholic.co.uk/2008/01/the-bishop-with-his-right-foot-in-his-mouth/

Posted by: Doug Chaplin on Sunday, 6 January 2008 at 11:36pm GMT

interesting that 3% of respondents to the last survey think that Mike is the guy who contributed the most to Anglicanism in the last year.

I think Doug's response to Mike and the Telegraph is very well written. thanks, Doug.

Posted by: Weiwen on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 3:16am GMT

Every extremist mullah in Britain has been offering thanks to Allah for the foolish Bishop of Rochester.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 3:51am GMT

I thank God every day for Bishops like Nazir-Ali for standing up to the Islamification of Britain and the West.

Posted by: Shawn on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 3:54am GMT

I'm with you Doug.

Personally, I think this is more scaremongering about persecuted Christians than about the wellbeing of society. Just as some commented about Christmas e.g. http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/6496
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2007/12/29/do2904.xml

If they purport that they are harassed by society, they don't have to take responsibility for either society or their own influence in it (for better of for worse).

I think one thing the recent outrages in countries such as Kenya and Pakistan can tell us, is that religious leaders can spark unholy violence that becomes an out-of-control firestorm.

I like Ekklesia's suggestion "consider a positive, alternative future in which Christians become known for modelling new possibilities of peace and justice rather than competing for control and power."

Their recent write up on the recent Historic Peace churches meeting in Indonesia is more inspiring http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/6525

The US churches model of a unilateral baptismal covenant can underpin such theology by integrating the everlasting covenant of peace promised to all the peoples of all the nations with Jesus as the archetype who embodies how global peace and justice can be made manifest.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 7:06am GMT

One thing I would really like to know is exactly what some of these people think Muslims should do? Assuming the majority of Muslims are not 'extremists' in their terms, then what exactly do they expect from them? I read lots about what they don't like, but not what they consider to be appropriate behaviour for Muslims.

Perhaps someone could explain. And without the usual platitudes about this country being 'Christian'. It isn't. To all intents and purposes the majority population is passively secular. Is that what would be preferred from Muslims - mosque once or twice a year and a vague belief in God, which is the British core position on religion?

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 10:35am GMT

Merseymike, I suspect that if I were one of those people you referred to and you honestly asked my opinion, in a situation I am 100% will not be leaked to the media, I think you would find parallels to what Emperor Manuel II Paleologus said (as to what I think of Muslims) and what Martin Luther said of the Jews in one of his books (as to what should we do with them). Pope Benedict quoted the former, got an angry response, and inadvertently proved Emperor Manuel's point.

I think that interreligious dialogue is good, only if Christians come from a conviction that their religion is the right path to truth and that they are not tempted (as are some liberals I know) into reducing all religions into an ethical system. To do that would be to betray our covenant to follow God and Christ alone.

Posted by: Ren Aguila on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 11:14am GMT

Ren: the Christians who are "reducing" Christianity to an ethical system at the moment are the conservative Evangelicals. They have a very impoverished sense of Christian traditions of spirituality, mysticism, liturgical worship, etc.
We do worship the same God as the Muslims, after all, so perhaps we should be careful not to speak dismissively of them.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 12:26pm GMT

"betray our covenant to follow God and Christ alone"

I've never signed up to such a Covenant, nor has one ever been offered to sign.

Posted by: Pluralist on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 1:13pm GMT

"only if Christians come from a conviction that their religion is the right path to truth"

Careful, there, Ren! If you make public statements like this, how will Consevos ever be able to claim you don't believe in the uniqueness of Christ?


"We do worship the same God as the Muslims, after all"

I'd argue this point, actually. We believe that God actually became one of us in the way we all get to be human beings, He was born. Muslims state quite clearly that God "neither begets nor is begotten". The Incarnation is central to our understanding of humanity, redemption, our relationship to God, and on and on. Muslims may well arrive at the same general conclusions, but by rejecting Incarnation, they must come at it from a very different angle. We believe in freedom from Law as a means to justification in God's eyes. The very word Islam means submission, submission to the will of Allah, expressed in Law. We believe the old prohibition against "idolatry" is misunderstood, and that the Incarnation makes representational religious art, and veneration of that art possible, and for many believers, required. For Muslims, this is anathema.

I don't believe different equals inferior. We do little to educate ourselves if we ignore the differences out of some misguided belief that pointing out differences is disrespectful. Islam may well have insights that can stir us to a deeper understanding of our own religious beliefs, and we will miss many of those imnportant thought provoking differences if we simply pretend to be the same.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 1:19pm GMT

To anyone interested in the differences and smiliarities between Christianity and Islam I recommend the link to "Muslims Ask, Christians Answer", written by the RC Christian Troll of Frankfurt University, Germany, who is very active in interfaith dialogue on behalf of the Vatican.


http://www.answers-to-muslims.com/

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 1:32pm GMT

Thanks to Doug Chaplin for his thoughtful observations and analysis. Very much worth reading and especially helpful to those of us from outside the UK. A book I came upon recently that supports Doug's point is Callum G. Brown's 'The Death of Christian Britain'. It traces the long arc of historical change in the way the British people have defined themselves religiously, unrelated to Islamic or other immigration.

Posted by: Mary Clara on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 1:43pm GMT

It cannot be honest to say 'We worship the same God as the Muslims'. An honest answer would point out both the overlaps and the differences. There are plenty of both.

Posted by: Christopher Shel on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 1:50pm GMT

I think that religious dialogue aimed at increasing co-operation within a secular democracy - which is what we live in here - can only work if we are not attempting to win converts for our own religion. It is not the role of the State to promote a single religion in a secular democracy.

In this sort of situation, then all religions are an ethical system, and we have to work out ways of living alongside each other, not assume that others will change to believe in our religion, or vice versa.

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 2:36pm GMT

Fr. Mark: Actually, I can tell you that this tendency for reductionism is being upheld by the likes of Hans Kung, who is no conservative evangelical. One of his apologists recently got a bashing for that in a recent forum at my university. I also wish to remind you of the principle that an accusing finger points three back at the accuser.

But you have a point there. I know an evangelical who is going up the candle (and into the Anglican fold!) because of that poverty.

Ford:
;)

Yes, we do have to emphasize what makes us different from Muslims. But thinking on this difference, and doing so in a climate of fear and latent, if not openly expressed hatred, can lead us one step closer to the same fate that awaited the Jews many decades ago.

My fear is that, not long in the future, someone will be bold enough to burn a Qur'an or say equally offensive remarks about Islam and Muslims and hundreds, if not thousands, will be there to cheer him on. And the State will not do anything to stop it.

After all, you can always paint such things as being part of the "war on terror."

Posted by: Ren Aguila on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 3:25pm GMT

Doug --
A very fine reflection -- I think you've covered all the bases with considerably more insight that the bishop mustered.

Fr Mark--
Trying to present religion as an "ethical system" is part of the current religion in the presidential campaign in the USA (especially with a Mormon candidate wanting to attract the votes of Evangelicals).
BTW -- there are Muslims who would dispute the claim that we pray to the same God (obviously they aren't the ones engaged in ecumenical dialog).

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 3:28pm GMT

For those who say we don't worship the same God as the Muslims (or for those who would also say we don't worship the same God as the Jews - an argument I frequently have with various Baptist types in the US) - isn't it rather that we worship the same God but with different understandings of that God?

It seems that to say we worship different Gods is simply to say that God is a manifestation of our own understanding rather than that there could be multiple understandings of the one God, or that one's understanding of the God might be more limited or erroneous than realized.

For the record, I do believe the Christian understanding is the fullest understanding there is.

Posted by: Dirk Reinken on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 3:35pm GMT

Um. Christians and Muslims *do worship the same God - unless y'all are saying there is more than one.

We understand God differently - profoundly so - which is an entirely different statement.

Is anyone other than me struck by the similarities between the Muslims' God-idea and that of the ConsEvos? I've long been haunted by an offhand remark of a respected friend that "Islam is a Christian heresy, after all."

Posted by: Oriscus on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 4:30pm GMT

I think we must worship the same God as the Muslims, if we accept that there is only one God. The Muslims perceive that God differently, have a different experience of that God and hence worship that God in a different way.

Note I avoid using pronouns here.

Similarly, if we are not to fall into the bigotry of believing that all non-Christians are pagans doomed to hell, we must accept that the gods of Hunduism, Buddhism, native American and native African belief are all aspects of that same God--revealed to these people for specific reasons that we, as mere mortals, cannot fathom.

Either Christ died to redeem all humans--of whatever faith or no faith--or the entire story of the New Testament is a lie.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 5:17pm GMT

It doesn't help to pretend that all Muslims are alike, just like not all Christians aren't.

The mystics of the two faith probably feel that the core truths are very similar, the fundamentalists see their religions as lightyears apart.

It's not the faith that has to be challenged and feared, but its expression among people who feel disenfranchised and persecuted and who use it as a political tool.
Just like the Christian fundamentalists' use of our faith as a political wedge has to be challenged.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 6:15pm GMT

Yes Ren

The War on Terror has been used to turn back many great healings, including the principles of the Magna Carta.

Pat wrote "if we are not to fall into the bigotry of believing that all non-Christians are pagans doomed to hell, we must accept that the gods of Hinduism, Buddhism, Native American and native African belief are all aspects of that same God--revealed to these people for specific reasons that we, as mere mortals, cannot fathom."

If you believe that there is a God above all gods, that God created the heaven and the earths, that all children are descendents of Adam and Cheva, that Noah's covenant occurred and is valid, that Jesus lived and died so that humanity can be brought back into a relationship with God. If you purport to claim any of this lineage and a consistency back to the God of gods, then you must acknowledge that God would reveal portions of himself to other elements of humanity (or even sentient life on another planet) as, when and how God sees fit.

We do not all end up with the same picture of God (we can not possible encapsulate everything that is God, no matter how many centuries we might live). We can discover more about God by talking with others about how they find God.

Christopher Shell wrote "It cannot be honest to say 'We worship the same God as the Muslims'. An honest answer would point out both the overlaps and the differences. There are plenty of both."

We can do more for God by choosing to manifest that which is decent and honorable and loving. We can desire that we and our children live in safety and wellbeing, and then rejoice when our neighbors do the same.

Genesis 2:18 God saw that it was not good for man to be alone, so he created woman. We are not meant to want to be alike to each other, we are meant to have differences. What we are meant to do is learnt to cooperate with each other, bringing out the best in ourselves and each other and mitigating against the problems.

The vision is not us to become alike, rather to like each other and in the process learn to like ourselves. The whole of Creation benefits from a covenant of peace, not just an elite priesthood.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 7:40pm GMT

"But thinking on this difference, and doing so in a climate of fear and latent, if not openly expressed hatred"

So the answer is to get rid of the hatred, not pretend the differences do not exist.

All those who talk about there being only one God, so we all must worship the same one reminds me (thank you all, it helps) of the way the Celts were converted. No condemnation of demons there, just the continued assertion that what they thought were different Gods inhabiting different natural structures were actually all the same God, they just didn't understand clearly. It can take us to syncretism if we take it too far, but it still is a helpful way of looking at it.

As to Consevos and Islam, yes indeed, they look very much alike, especially in the ways they think of Scriptural authority and how we are justified in the eyes of God. What's more, the right of the believer to punish those who disobey the Law is also very similar.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 7 January 2008 at 7:43pm GMT

To those who believe Muslims worship a different god---

When they pray to Allah (simply "God" in Arabic; Arabic-speaking *Christians* pray to Allah, too!), "the Compassionate, the Merciful", Who do you think hears their prayers? Like there's more than one "Compassionate, Merciful" deity?

[Whereas I believe that the Incarnation (along w/ the cross) is the best explanation of ***HOW*** God/Allah is compassionate and merciful!]

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 5:25am GMT

God was not only merciful and compassionate in Jesus made incarnate and crucified on the cross.

The OT is full of examples of the prophets acknowledging the compassion of God. If that can be done before Jesus was even born, there is no reason it could not have been done since, nor with peoples of other societies, continents or even souls of other planets and galaxies.

God didn't become love at the incarnation of Jesus. God was already love, Jesus is a reaffirmation of the compassionate God who desires mercy, gentleness and peace.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 8:57am GMT

I'd like to see some examples cited of these no-go areas, so that it can be seen if the Bishop is scare-mongering, or simply giving factual information. Rather than just slamming him for "stirring up hatred", wouldn't it be better to tackle him about examples? I'd like to see a certain Mr Paxman ask: "Bishop, can you give as an example?" again... and again.

Posted by: Tony on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 11:17am GMT

Tony:

Preferably 12 times.

See here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/newsnight25/4182569.stm

Posted by: Ren Aguila on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 11:51am GMT

JCF,
Thanks for that! It helps clarify things.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 1:04pm GMT

I don't know whether the Bishop is right or not, since the existence of 'no-go areas' is in any case to a large degree a matter of perception. What I do know is that his critics' position is untenable. To know that there were no such areas in Britain they would need to be omnipresent: in all areas at all times. Thus their assertion that they know that there are none is absurd. They may be right that there are none - but, either way, it would be quite impossible to know this, so they should not pretend otherwise.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 1:54pm GMT

Hi Oriscus, JCF and Pat

You all make the same point that, granted there is only one God, it must be the same one that we are worshipping - albeit we may perceive that God in some ways differently or partially.

I see flaws in this position:

It makes no allowances for the possibility that either one or both groups may be mistaken about the nature of the God in question. One may be correct that there is one God by mere accident. For example, in a universe where some monotheists worship Zeus and some Ahura-Mazda, and in fact, of the two, it turns out that only Ahura-Mazda really exists, what grounds would anyone have for saying that the Zeus-worshippers were really worshipping Ahura-Mazda all along? They might vehemently deny this. There might be a less than 50% overlap in their perceived attributes. It could even be that the only thing these two gods had in common was that they were one in number. Big deal. Deities which were the embodiment (or projection) of a nation were very common in Old Testament times. By definition they were opposed to one another. Each nation worshipped the god of their own nation and was not obliged to grant the existence of the gods of other nations. The idea of identifying them together (think of 'Tashlan' in 'The Last Battle') always comes from those who, while pretending to be talking about the objective existence or otherwise of various gods, are actually talking about world peace and tolerance, which, though great goods in themselves, are irrelevant in this context.

If people worship an implicit one God, or a one God of their own experience, then there is every chance there will be substantial overlap in the realities that they worship, whatever nation they come from. If they worship a one God of national tradition, there is less likelihood of that. Merely saying that every one God must be the same as every other one God is to say that money worshippers, power worshippers, beautiful-woman worshippers, Sihon worshippers, Og worshippers, Allah worshippers etc etc all have the same object of worship. Which we all know is not true. For God and Allah to overlap in compassion and mercy proves nothing: (a) why select the very things they do overlap in while ignoring those they don't, when it has already been granted that the overlap is partial albeit not total? (b) two individuals may both be compassionate and merciful. How does that make them the same individual? (c) The central question of whether either or both actually exist has been sidestepped.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 2:21pm GMT

What would the good bishop have us do with these muslims? If they don't convert with burn them at the stake? There is no solution to this problem he seems to see.

Maybe if the church would stop fighting over who has the right gospel and start working on finding commonalities we would gain more members and build welcoming communities.

My view on Nazir-Ali's statement is that he is trying to scare people into make more governmental restrictions on the faith of some in favor of his own. We see a lot of it here in the states with the Evangelical right.

Posted by: BobinSwPA on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 3:05pm GMT

Christopher: of course Muslims worship the same God. They think they do, as do Jews, and we have to take their word for it.

I worked in a multi-faith chaplaincy with two excellent Muslim colleagues, and they were perfectly happy to pray with me, as I was with them.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 6:32pm GMT

BobinSwPa

History tells us that when one group legislates to restrict the activities of another, eventually the tides are turned and the restrictions imposed upon the first group are worst than the ones they first imposed.

Put a lot of people into abusive circumstances, deprive them of access to jobs and dignity, insult them, gloat over your privileges over them, treat them as if they don't exist or don't matter. Do it for a long time and to a hard degree, and you have bred a very, very angry group of people. Do it to lots of different groups for lots of different reasons and don't be surprised if lots of different people from lots of different groups band together to bring the tyrants to their knees. Unfortunately, that usually leads to a vengeful bloodbath.

The brilliance of South Africa in the 1980s was they managed to bring down Apartheid without that bloodbath. As we all know, some external teachers did not approve of that and started church plantings to ensure tyranny justifying theology was still touted as the only solo scriputual theology endorsed by God.

You know, you can nitpick about how you are different to others e.g. hair colour, height, genital configuration, ethnic background, theological choices. You can take an xenophobic perspective and act as though it is only "like" within a "suitable" spectrum that is "valid". You can then choose to talk to or about the "unsaved" outcastes aggressively or dismissively.

Such souls can never lead humanity to peace, they refute basic biblical exhortations. Love thy neighbor (and even thy enemy), do unto others as you would have done unto you, dispense justice with mercy and compassion, show the fruits of spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

We can work to bring out the best in others and seek out and rejoice in our common ground. Or we can be nitpicking bickerers.

The former are the meek who will inherit this world, the latter are Korech bickerers who are swallowed by the earth.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 7:31pm GMT

"in a universe where some monotheists worship Zeus"

I'm afraid at that point this post became a "TL, DR" kinda deal...

Posted by: JCF on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 10:06pm GMT

But is the Bishop right? Are there areas of Britain where the average non-Muslim Englishman fears to go? There are certainly areas in the US where persons of one race or another might fear to go for fear of being subjected to violence. Ask people of color about being on the streets in certain areas of Brooklyn or Queens. I would not take a stroll down many a street in Harlem or Watts without being fearful for my safety merely because of my race. It is neither racist nor scapegoating to point to their existence if one's purpose is to seek reasonable solutions to people's inability to feel and actually be safe in their own communities.

Posted by: Dan on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 10:38pm GMT

So, Dan, are there areas of Britain where a non-white Muslim may fear to go?

This is simply about Nazir-Ali's wish to become the head of the new Communion in the UK, and another example of his passionate loathing for Islam, without recognising its similarities to his own brand of religious conservatism.

I think there is racism in Britain. I don't think that this is primarily characterised by 'no-go ' areas dominated by Muslims.
I can certainly see why Muslims (or anyone with an ounce of judgment) would be very wary of the bishop of Rochester!

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 11:34pm GMT

I very much like Erica Baker's comment above.

This is from John H. Watson's "Among the Copts" (page 128)
A western scholar once asked Pope Shenouda if Allah -- the God and Father of Jesus Christ, in the Arabic Bible -- and Allah -- the God of Muhammad, in the Qur'an -- were the same Allah? Before Shenouda could reply, a bishop cried out with an anguished voice: "No. No. The God of Islam is Satan!" The westerner was shocked. Shenouda was angry. He turned on the bishop: "You must not say this, not to an Englishman or to an Egyptian. We have to cooperate with the moderate Muslims who are sincere in their belief in Allah. The word Allah remains the same word." It was a diplomatic but equivocal response. As if to carry the argument forward, the bishop continued aggressively in English "I am not a Muslim." Smiles of irony flitted across the face of Shenouda and of the westerner. One simply cannot say this sentence in Arabic, for 'Lastu bi-muslimin' would mean that I do not submit to God and that would be blasphemous. It was a moment of disclosure.

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Tuesday, 8 January 2008 at 11:42pm GMT

Christopher;

I think you miss our point--or mine, at any rate. There IS only one God. As a Christian, I firmly believe that. I also firmly believe, as a humanist, that other religions are not to be disparaged as "not true". Therefore, I look at these other believers and come to the conclusion that--since there is but one God--the deities the others worship are manifestations of the one God.

Why have they been given a different perspective on this God than I (or you)? I don't know. I don't pretend to understand the mind of God.

Dan:

There's a big difference between an individual perception that a particular neighborhood is unsafe and the idea that the inhabitants of that neighborhood have declared it a "no-go zone" for people unlike themselves.

I went to college in Harlem in the late '60s and early '70s, when it was far more dangerous than it is now. Yes, there were areas we were told were unwise to travel, especially alone. But were there areas that made me believe I was in danger from the general populace, merely by the fact that I was white? No.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 9 January 2008 at 12:02am GMT

This row takes the attention away from gaffe-prone GAFCON. Whereas opposing gay rights fails to inspire these days, the bishop's article has elicited the usual Islamophobic comments on the blogs. The silence of the archbishops is deafening. What's the C of E's official line? Where are the no-go areas?

Posted by: Hugh of Lincoln on Wednesday, 9 January 2008 at 12:40am GMT

Being a Muslim does not make one a danger to other people; being Muslim therefore does not of itself produce any no go areas. This is the nonsense.

Posted by: Pluralist on Wednesday, 9 January 2008 at 3:47am GMT

"Yes, there were areas we were told were unwise to travel, especially alone."

Notting Hill was one such when I was young.

I had recieved an invitiation, and one day as I was asking around at my work place as to its whereabouts, I was specificly warned by several persons who lived there themselves, that it was Oh soo dangerous!

Nothing happened.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Wednesday, 9 January 2008 at 10:02am GMT

Hi Pat-

But money-worshippers worship only one god. So do Satan worshippers. And so on.

By your argument, money (Mammon) and Satan are just dimensions of the one God.

If I decide to worship drizzle, then that too is just one dimension, or to worship the final 'e' in your last post, these too are dimensions of the one God, no more nor less important than others' objects of worship. Why? Because they share the all-important quality of being one in number, and not two or more.

All one can say is that this one God must be remarkably complex and self-contradictory. I repeat my earlier point: What grounds are there for assuming that that which is worshipped (and every one of its qualities) actually exists? And why don't you allow people to be mistaken about the existence or attributes of anything?

If we leave aside the issue of any given God/god's existence as unprovable or unsolvable, then we have to compare different ideas of God. Once again, these often contradict one another. Some 'one god's are diverse, some simple. Some are more merciful, some are more judgmental. Some can incarnate or procreate; of others this is firmly denied. Some can create; others can only shape what already exists. You hold that both sides are true. That is clearly a logical impossibility. The simpler and more obvious possibility, that at least some of the believers are at least partly wrong or mistaken in what they believe, you reject. Why? Not in the interests of science or of logic. Rather, in the interests of peace and tolerance, which have never cared much for truth or reality. I have always loved peace a lot; I would love it even more if it could show the integrity to care about truth.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 9 January 2008 at 1:10pm GMT

"Why have they been given a different perspective on this God than I (or you)? I don't know. I don't pretend to understand the mind of God."

Pat, I find this a very attractive position, but there's one thing about it that bothers me. It seems to be saying that we all worship the same God, it's just that others aren't enlightened enough to perceive it, which is no less insulting than saying that others worship demons or spirits masquerading as God, or are led astray in some way. It's like Christian churches that would include, say, Gandhi among the Christian saints. It's like saying "He's good enough to be one of us." No, Gandhi was saintly because he was a saintly Hindu, not because he was good enough to be a Christian if he had only recognized that the many gods he worshipped were actually just manifestations of the Christian God. It sounds good in principle, I agree, but the more I think about it, the more it seems to be a bit arrogant of us. I much prefer to respect the fact that others have different beliefs with which I disagree. I think a big part of our problem is that we equate 'different' with ideas of inferior and superior, so to say Muslims are different must mean they are inferior, or thier beliefs are inferior, which need not follow at all. Another problem is what seems to be a link between disagreement and struggle for superiority, as if to say if I disagree with Muslim theology, I must then struggle for the superiority of my own, which also need not follow.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 9 January 2008 at 1:12pm GMT

Satan is just one dimension of God - he is a fallen one.

There are Christians who worship what some fallen ones desired - the end of this world and all its occupants, dodging having to provide for "the other" or contributing to making Creation running smoothly, a "nice" comfortable heaven for themselves whilst the masses suffer in "hell".

Some Christians need to ask whether they are worshiping the prince of this world that Jesus warned them about, or the Jesus who was sent to heal this world and bring about peace, the one who "died" to save us all from our sins.

Similarly, they need to relearn cause and effect. The ends to do not justify the means. The means shape what is manifest in Creation.

Those who advocate complacency, elitism, tyranny and vilification fail to provide for God's children both in the present and the future. They take away peace as they are constantly slandering and bickering. There is no rest for the wicked. Their means has destroyed their ends.

Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. Their humility, empathy, compassion, and forgiveness means they provide for God's children both in the present and in the future. They bring peace as they allow God to cover each other's transgressions and instead work for the greater good. They find rest even in life as their consciences are clean and they have the rest of the satiated - with work being one form of nourishment.

Posted by: Cheryl Va. Clough on Wednesday, 9 January 2008 at 8:08pm GMT

Christopher:

I know of no "Church of the Holy Dollar" so talk of "worshiping money" on the same level as say, worshiping Shiva, is nonsense. As for Satan worship, the FBI has investigated virtually every "Satanic cult" charge in the US over the past several decades. Know what? They've never found one to exist, beyond a few kids challenging the status quo in their respective communities.

Therefore, your objections to my philosophy are basically straw men.

OTOH, I understand Ford's objections and I accept them. Except to say that I have never viewed anyone's religion as being inferior to my own--merely different. It's not that, for example, Hindus have a lesser understanding of the nature of God...only that they have a different one. I might consider less complete than my own (as they undoubtedly consider mine), but since neither of us has a really complete understanding, I suspect our different perspectives combine to create a better whole than either of us has alone.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 9 January 2008 at 8:51pm GMT

Hi Pat-

But that doesn't address the central issue. On such a big and mysterious question as the God question, the chances of being in error are surely colossal. After all we humans are in error (and allowed by you to be able to err) on many much simpler matters.

Yet your proposal is (seemingly?) that no-one is wrong in any aspect of their perception of God. They merely see different bits of the overall reality.

Can't you see what an unthinking capitulation to postmodernism this might seem? You take it as read that no-one is ever wrong (which you must know is untrue) - least of all on an especially mysterious question like the God question (which you must know is even more untrue).

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 11 January 2008 at 1:19pm GMT

Christopher,

Isn’t it rather that because of the enormity of God we ALL see some of it wrong, and because of our limitations we cannot know which bits we see wrong. Humility therefore requires not to claim that we are right and all the others are wrong, but to allow the possibility that we may be wrong in parts where they are right.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 11 January 2008 at 3:49pm GMT

"You take it as read that no-one is ever wrong (which you must know is untrue) - least of all on an especially mysterious question like the God question (which you must know is even more untrue)."

You seem to be taking it as read that everybody else is wrong. I agree that we can't all be right. I think our basic attitude here is the same. After that though we differ. I suspect you are starting from a position that we can scientifically prove the existence of God in some fashion, so the ultimate reality of God is something our human minds can encompass. I don't agree. I don't think God is ever provable scientifically. To do so would be to draw boundaries around God, to encompass Him with our finite human minds, and that's not possible. I tend to take a "Cloud of Unknowing" approach. The ultimate unknowability of God, at least this side of the parousia, is very important to my faith. And we've been over this WRT the knowability of God in Christ. They don't negate each other, apophatic theology is hardly a new thing in Christianity. If someone ever proved God existed, I'd cease to worship Him, since, for me, proof of His existence is proof that He is a created thing, so thus not entirely God. Thus, I cannot insist on the rightness of what I firmly believe to be right. How could I ever establish that rightness? Thus, since the "truth" of my faith can only ever be something that I believe and affirm, how can I claim others are wrong in their faith that what they believe is true is actually true? I can no more prove my position to them than can prove theirs to me.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 11 January 2008 at 4:56pm GMT

Christopher:

Erika and Ford basically have it right as to my position, especially Erika.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 11 January 2008 at 10:00pm GMT
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