Comments: columns of opinion

Giles Fraser's article reminds me of a time when I grappled with a buddhist concept. Meditation seeks to find stillness, the point at which you are attached to nothing and do not react to the unimportant. The difference between the Buddhist religions and the Abrahamic religions is the realisation that if you do not move, you are an inert statue.

Abraham, Sarah, Rebecca, Isaac, Jacob, Rachel and Leah all moved. They moved as if there was no one else who could move, they moved because they knew God's plans for humanity and thus their descendants could not be fulfilled unless they moved. But they never lost touch with God in the process of their movements. That is what distinguished them from Esau, who preened at his own beauty, ravaged women in the fields, enjoyed slaughter, and exchanged his gifts for a bowl of lentils simply to satisfy a passing whim.

Sacks' article inspires at one level, but fails to address another. He reclaims the childhood wonder that you do not have to betray to enchant, yet it is enchanting to find one who you believe will not betray.

There is a belief that celibacy means one is above human relationships. This lesson forgets that God saw that Adam was not good alone and needed another. It also forgets that there is something to learn from making oneself vulnerable to another who might or might not betray you. Staying aloof might seem safer, but there is a loss of discovering the one who will not betray. If you never trust, you will never know what it is to experience unconditional love.

Unconditional love is only really experienced when you fail, realise you fail, realise you can not hide that you have failed, but realise that there is one soul who will still love you despite your failings and their consequences. That is true love. You can not experience it until you have experienced and acknowledged your brokenness, and surprisingly find yourself loved despite (and possibly because of) your brokenness.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Saturday, 4 August 2007 at 1:26pm BST

Giles Fraser is right that predicaments and crises can add a sense of excitement. Surely that is what so many people experience in war - terror and horror, but a sense of excitement, job done, friends made. The Anglican crisis is a negative but draws interest, powers of analysis, excitement of the next moves and so on - even a destructive situation.

I don't have a problem with building a large mosque, but I do with Wahabi Islam. This Puritanical Islam is the background to much Islamic extremism backed by Saudi money. Yes, most of these will push their puritanism on themselves and others, but it gives rise to a mixture that is making communities living together more difficult not less.

Charles Handy does indeed write in a way reminiscent of some conversionist Christian manuals - the whole business of theology and institutions overlaps with both sociology of religion and management studies. So long as techniques do not become manipulation, there will be this borrowing and taking between these three.

Posted by Pluralist at Saturday, 4 August 2007 at 1:39pm BST

From the Harry Potter article:

What is striking about the Hebrew Bible is the way it candidly acknowledges the beauty and power of physical desire, nowhere more so than in the Song of Songs. But it expresses it in the form of a pledge of mutual commitment, turning desire into love, and love into a moral bond of fidelity and loyalty. The heroes and heroines of the Hebrew Bible — Abraham and Sarah, Elkanah and Hannah, Ruth and Boaz — are people made extraordinary by their devotion to one another.


David and Jonathan come to mind here as well.

Posted by --sheila-- at Saturday, 4 August 2007 at 10:44pm BST

Hi Sheila

Maybe we should add Naomi and Ruth, Leah and Rachel. There was an excellent Out In Scripture a few months ago that looked at how the bible fosters healthy relationships, not just the sexual between a male and female.

Mind you, I think the whole thing of the relationship between Gaia and God in Exodus has been forgotten or overlooked. I always think of the parting of the red sea as God seducing Gaia (the Jews being the male and female sperm passing through her moist red passage). But no other males sperm may go there (witness the sea closing in on the Pharoah's army).

The sheltering of the Jews within dark cloud and feeding them through mammon for forty years giving Gaia a chance to experience the stretching womb of pregnancy and a placenta.

The scene where the Jews demanded more than mammon parallels the wife having food cravings.

Gaia: "Honey, I really, really feel like pickled herrings and icecream."

God: "You don't even like pickled herrings, its raining outside and I have to go to work in four hours".

Gaia: "Please"

Grumpy male gets out of bed, puts on some clothes and goes to the twenty four hour shop. Comes back with ten cans of herrings and a 4 litre tub of icecream. "You wanted herrings and icecream - this should satisfy you!"

Hubby gets up to go to work and she is groaning about how disgusting it was and that there's still 9 tins of herrings to go.

He snickers "I told you you wouldn't like them, but you wouldn't listen to me".

Matthew 5:34-35 "Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool..." Exodus 23:5 "If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it."

I wonder how God feels when he sees Gaia reeling under the load humanity has placed upon her, especially when some advocate there is no to help her as she is meant to be replaced by a new earth...

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Sunday, 5 August 2007 at 11:24am BST

God probably doesn't feel anything towards Gaia except pity for those how throw in with that idea since the concept is pagan and man made.

Posted by Chris at Monday, 6 August 2007 at 9:00pm BST


So God feels nothing towards Gaia? She's just some pagan idea and has no consciousnes of her own? She was never betrothed to God, never God's footstool? It matters not whether she lives or dies, or wants to live or die?

There is no implication for humanity if she decides that she is overwhelmed, unloved and there is no hope of any divine force coming to rescue her or enable her occupants to survive? So it matters not that this becomes an uninhabitable planet?

God doesn't care? It clear that at least some Christians (yourself for example) don't! If God does not intervene to prove otherwise, why should she bother existing for such an bunch of abusive ingrates!

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Tuesday, 7 August 2007 at 11:59am BST

Cheryl says "I always think of the parting of the red sea as God seducing Gaia (the Jews being the male and female sperm passing through her moist red passage). But no other males sperm may go there (witness the sea closing in on the Pharoah's army)."

Is this a joke?

Posted by NP at Tuesday, 7 August 2007 at 3:31pm BST

I think it's actually what some of us call a metaphor.

Whether it is a helpful metaphor or not may well depend on the hearer.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Tuesday, 7 August 2007 at 11:09pm BST

Biblical imagery of God reconciling himself back with the earth includes Isaiah 62 e.g. "… your land will be married… as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride..." Psalms 19:1-6 "The heavens declare the glory of God... In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat." The red sea imagery is bold but consistent.

Contemplate Lamentations 2:1 "…the Lord has covered the Daughter of Zion with the cloud of his anger! He has hurled down the splendor of Israel from heaven to earth; he has not remembered his footstool in the day of his anger." Micah 4:6-13 bridges this passage to Hosea 2:14-23 “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her... There she will sing… declares the LORD, “you will call me ‘my husband’’ ... I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD… I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ ”

Jesus understood the betrothal concepts e.g. Matthew 5:34-35 "Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool" Matthew 9:15 "“How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them…" Or Luke 5:34-39

Matthew 25:1-13, foolish virgins took empty lamps so the bridegroom did not know them. Such is the destiny of ignorant priests who remove the oil of holy texts. Ponder Revelation 18:20-24 "The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again." If souls have not previously contemplated these imageries, how can they be "the" bride pining for her betrothed?

In John 3:26-26 the Baptist comments “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend… is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine... He must become greater; I must become less."

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Tuesday, 7 August 2007 at 11:30pm BST

Jesus and other NT writers certainly did use the bridegroom allusion extensively. Wonder what that was about and if it has any bearing on the current presenting issues........... nah.

Posted by Chris at Tuesday, 7 August 2007 at 11:53pm BST


Serious question - do you see Gaia as an actual being or a metaphor for nature?

Posted by Chris at Wednesday, 8 August 2007 at 5:50am BST

Gaia has her own consciousness.

Every planet that is capable of sustaining life is appointed guardians to guide and protect the planet through its development. Adam and Eve were appointed as this planet's guardians, they are also known as the two Cherubim of the Ark, the power and glory of God.

Psalm 132:7-9 has not yet been edited away and contains the clearest reference “Let us go to his dwelling place; let us worship at his footstool— arise, O LORD, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. May your priests be clothed with righteousness; may your saints sing for joy.”

To heal this planet is going to require God to dwell with us. For God to dwell with us, the two cherubim of the ark need to be reconciled. As the the masculine becomes re-reconciled with the feminine, humanity's confusion will lift and seemingly insurmountable problems will be easily resolved.

John the Baptist is the feminine form of Eve/Cherubim of Glory/Daughter of Zion/Moshiach ben Joseph (neither is restricted in gender manifesation). Jesus is the masculine Adam/Cherubim of Power/Moshiach ben David.

Jesus' return to reconcile with his mate has already been prophesized by the Muslims. Doing so would be a huge bootstrap in terms of overcoming the nihilistic greed and tyranny of this generation. It would also mean a return of the patriarchs and matriachs, and God knows the planet needs a few of those right now.

I could tell you of the dreams and visions and angelic encounters that confirm this, but since my enemies edit away proof of correlations that can be verified, there is no reason to believe they will listen to evidence that can not be verified. I console myself with the knowledge taht once once they realise who they have been attacking, they might blush and desist. It's a bit embarassing to admit you have been slandering and sabotaging Jesus' soul mate.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Wednesday, 8 August 2007 at 10:57am BST

The issue WRT Gaia seems to be about personification of something unseen. Gaia is first and foremost a concept. To suggest she is an actual being seems threatening to some. Why this should be is odd to me. First, we state in the Creed that God created "all things, visible and invisible". Just what are these "invisible" things? To posit the existence of Gaia as a being is surely just to posit the existence of something else made by God but invisible to us, as we claim Sunday after Sunday to believe in. The mistake would be not in the perception of such things, but in the attributing to them of the qualities of the Divine, to treat them as gods in their own right. I'm quite happy to accept the possibility of the existence of spirits, angels, demons, loa, and on and on. I just don't acknowledge any of them as God. If indeed such things can be said to exist, they are created things, just like I am. Just because some of our ancestors believed them to be Gods is immaterial. This is hardly a new concept. No, it isn't New Age, it's how many of the ancient pagans were converted, notably the Celts.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 8 August 2007 at 1:57pm BST

On the subject of Harry Potter--among the many wonderful things about the series, Harry only has one sexual partner and remains faithful to her for life. I think that Harry's relationship with Ginny is a great model for what marriage should be. I hope this is pointed out when Christians read the book.

Posted by James at Wednesday, 8 August 2007 at 6:18pm BST

Off topic:
"I hope this is pointed out when Christians read the book."

I don't think I'll bother pointing this out to my children. The Christian message is about so much more than sexual purity, and the chit-chat these days seems to be all about sex. It's like the Christian version of Big Brother! Emminently trendy and emminently salacious and pointless.

I think I shall concentrate on talking to my children about what truly matters.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 8 August 2007 at 8:36pm BST

Seems that James has bowdlerized Cho right out of the Potter corpus.

(Potential spoiler here if you haven't read the last book yet.)

Now, other than the secondary evidence that Harry and Ginny have had sex in the years between the defeat of Voldemort and the epilogue, the text is silent on what other person or persons either of them might or might not have had sex with in the ensuing period. It is a little much to impose the principle of faithful unions on the story.

It was interesting that two passages of scripture actually appear (uncredited) in the text of Deathly Hallows - and not merely as allusions. I was concerned that Harry's interpretation of "the last enemy to be destroyed is death" as being associated with the death eaters is never effectively dealt with - though Hermione offers a different interpretation.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Wednesday, 8 August 2007 at 9:15pm BST

"I think that Harry's relationship with Ginny is a great model for what marriage should be. I hope this is pointed out when Christians read the book."-James

Not to mention honor, loyalty, duty, self-sacrifice, teamwork, respect for elders, thinking, and working for a common goal. No wonder it's a hit with many young and old people. Now if some of those who readily call themselves Christians could start emulating the virtues demonstrated in the books.

Posted by choirboyfromhell at Wednesday, 8 August 2007 at 9:56pm BST

Well played Ford.

There are things both seen and unseen. They are all from God and of God but are not all of God; it is not appropriate to worship them as gods.

Ezekiel 28 gives an vivid example of what God can do to gods (or humans) who get too big for their boots: " ‘In the pride of your heart you say, “I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas.” But you are a man and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god. Are you wiser than Daniel? Is no secret hidden from you?'" and culminates with "Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries. So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.’”

This is intended as a warning for those who embrace Edomite distortions. It is also a warning for higher souls who think they are above being disciplined. No individual soul, whether it is human, angelic, guardian cherub, or planetoid contains all of God. There are levels and depths to God that are even beyond my comprehension and I am happy to allow God to be God and just be human as God has chosen make me.

To survive and transcend the depths to which humanity has fallen, we need to stop behaving like children squabbling over the lolly jar with indifference to our siblings who have none or our own appalling bad manners.

We need strong patriarchs redolent with Christ consciousness. But we can't have strong patriarchs without strong matriarchs, so we need to stop attempting matricide and acknowledge the second cherubim of the ark (the Shechina) so that our women can support our men and both can build children and a future that is sustainable and desirable both for ourselves, and also for God and the rest of Creation (including Gaia).

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Wednesday, 8 August 2007 at 10:17pm BST

As well, Cheryl, the sexual imagery of the Red Sea so scorned by NP has its precedent in Christian thought. One of the Orthodox hymns to the Virgin compares Her preservation of Her Virginity to the Red Sea being inviolate after the passing of the children of Israel. Of course, that's probably just a "tradition of men" and fine for those idolatrous Orthodox, but unworthy of the consideration of the True Christian.

Posted by Ford Elms at Wednesday, 8 August 2007 at 10:52pm BST

One of the most evocative movements in (orthodox Catholic) Olivier Messiaen's entire ouvre -- if you're into avant-garde organ music -- is the depiction of the parting of the Red Sea in his last work, the epic Livre du Saint Sacrement.

You can actually *see* the parting of the waves.

Posted by Hugh of Lincoln at Wednesday, 8 August 2007 at 11:44pm BST

"Precedent" is a rather strong word for a tenuous link but yes, Ford....very probably a made up "tradition" given the Lord had siblings...and He never told us to sing to his mum.

Mark 3:31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers [2] are outside, seeking you.”

Posted by NP at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 8:32am BST

Bravo Erika!

To others here un-named: Potter's and Genevra relationship is marked by a conflict between passion and duty (rather "classical" don't you think...) in the face of acute danger to a prospective partner.

Nothing to do with the late Modern American category of "sex".

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 8:43am BST

"Mark 3:31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers [2] are outside, seeking you.”


Jesus chose those who bonded with him over those who claimed precedent or filial relationshsips.

Please keep being rude, it highlights your blindness. Others who can see better at least know to show civility, just in case they are wrong (or right).

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 11:44am BST

not sure what rudeness you are on about, Cheryl....

-if it is rude to say that your confused pagan ideas ain't in the bible and the mother of the Lord had other children after her divine firstborn (as the bible says), then I am "rude" (but maybe "in possession of the facts" would be a better description?)

Posted by NP at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 2:07pm BST

Actually, NP, the Bible really doesn't say that Mary had further children after her divine first-born. Indeed, the word generally translated "brothers" can also be interpreted more generally as any close male relatives.

Personally, I'm more inclined to believe that Mary probably did have children subsequent to our Lord. But I won't pretend that scripture proves it because scripture doesn't prove it.

That said, I think our Lord's mum deserves quite a lot more respect than you seem willing to give her. And I am quite happy, with Christians over the whole history of the Church, to ask Jesus mum for her prayers.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 5:13pm BST

I asked this question earlier on a dying thread so it got lost.
I don't agree with NP's flippant tone, but I do share his difficulty with praying to Mary and other departed people.

It's not quite like asking your congregation for prayers, as it depends on what you believe happens after death.
Are all these people alive in some way (before the Second Coming?), and have they reached a state whereby they can actually hear our prayers and respond to them in a meaningful way?

I'm not saying it's impossible, but it's not as obvious as some people might like to claim (you can see my total lack of knowledge about Catholic theology!)

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 5:35pm BST

I like the orthodox (the real ones, not the posers) answer to such questions: "We believe it because we have always believed it. We have been taught it FROM THE BEGINNING." (The capitals are mine, but it underscores the point that the Christian faith was originally an oral tradition, if only for a couply of decades, and certainly that Christianity goes back before the innovations of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, et al)

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 7:00pm BST

was that meant to be an answer to my question?
I have always believed what makes sense to me. I cannot force belief just because someone tells me that "I have to" believe. Christianity makes sense to me, the broad tent Anglican version makes sense to me. I believe the church when it tells me why it believes something to be true, especially if I can rationally or psychologically understand at least the reasoning for that belief.
But a simple "because we've been taught it from the beginning" doesn't quite work.

Scripture - Tradition - Reason... and if it's "only" traditon then there has to be a reason for that tradition.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 8:58pm BST

Like Ford, I agree that Marian devotion is found from the earliest days of the Church.

In response to Erica's query - and I have said this before - we do not "pray to" Mary or the saints, but rather ask them to pray for us. So it really is comparable to asking our congregation of a Sunday morning, or asking our friend next door to pray for us, or for some particular intention.

But what is permissable is not necessarily helpful. Thus, if asking Mary and the Saints for their prayers makes no sense to you, that's fine too.

NP's flippant tone aside, his argument is essentially that scripture does not tell us to do this thing, therefore we are not to do this thing. That argument is not logical.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 9:54pm BST

As Ford commented earlier "No, it isn't New Age, it's how many of the ancient pagans were converted, notably the Celts."

I love the Celts, my children have Celtic names (Jocelyn is the unisex scottish form of Jacob). It was the Scots who were so ferocious that they ended the Roman expansionism and were so effective that Romans had to put a wall to stop them.

Being half Celtic and half Germanic (the other lot that gave the Romans a run for their money), I rather like being called a pagan.

Plus the bible has heaps of imagery that pagans can relate to, just as there is imagery that is suitable for buddhists and hindus and other non-Abrahamic philosophies and religions.

I don't have a problem making the bible accessible and understandable to people of other cultures. That's what God wants us to do, take the bible to souls and show them how it is relevant to them in their current circumstances and where it could help them improve their lives. It's called taking God's Word to the masses.

In the meantime, I quite like the latest research that went up on the internet overnight. It appears that aggressive males might be fun for a one-night stand, but women are sensibly realising they are likely to be abusvie husbands and fathers and are thus choosing more gentle males for their life long mates.

If they have any brains, women will also make the same choices about which parish or denomination they affiliate with. Personally, I will choose a parish that I think will nurture ALL my children, even if they turn out to be gay. A church that gives their children stable characters so that they do not spend their life being abused or being abusive.

NP. Don't expect to see me in a church that encourages your kind of behaviour.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 10:32pm BST

The parable of Lazarus and the rich man provides some insight into the role the dead play while they wait for the trumpet to sound. They know what is happening on Earth and still know their families, among other things. There are also physical sensations, suggesting physical realities. (Its always tough to know when to stop reading into a parable...)

If they retain their knowledge and soul - even if questions about the body are not completely answered - then why shouldn't the faithful departed be able to pray for us?

Posted by Chris at Thursday, 9 August 2007 at 11:08pm BST

"Indeed, the word generally translated "brothers" can also be interpreted more generally as any close male relatives.

Personally, I'm more inclined to believe that Mary probably did have children subsequent to our Lord. But I won't pretend that scripture proves it because scripture doesn't prove it."

This is a general observation.

The Bible doesn't "prove" things (neither the wireless, nor cars or hospitals). It wasn't written to answer o u r questions; the peculiar kind of "factual" questions asked in late Modernity.

There's a Lesson, particularly for Calvinists and Americans (inerrantist, IDers & c.), in this.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Friday, 10 August 2007 at 6:21am BST

Malcolm...your implied logic is that if there is no positive encouragement from scripture to do something, it is fine to do it as long as it is not don't think that position is logical do you? Of course, even certain things which are prohibited, you make exemptions for so I am not surprised you take a loose position on how we pray and worship.

WE ar talking about prayer and is perfectly logical to say we should follow the model set by the Lord and his Apostles in how we pray and who we worship....they worshipped Him and His Father.....the fact that early traditions got infected by ideas from "mother and child" middle-eastern cults is really no justification to deviate from the model we were set.

The Lord taught us how to pray....we have a perfect model....He did not teach us to pray through his blessed mother or anyone else....the point of the cross is that He is breaking down the barriers between sinners and the Father....I shall stick with the Lord's model for praying and encourage you to do so too.....he knew (better than even old human tradition!) what he was talking about.

Posted by NP at Friday, 10 August 2007 at 7:21am BST

Though my study of church history ended with the death of Leo the Great in 461, I believe that there was a thing called a 'Reformation'. Someone I know who had heard of this 'Reformation' suggested that a Mr Luther held that that which was not forbidden in Scripture was permitted, while a Mr Calvin held that that which was not permitted in Scripture was forbidden.

Seems to me that, NP, you do follow Mr Calvin's ideas here - but do you see no faithfulness in Mr Luther? You clearly can't see much is us catholics. Hod you your own faith tradition, please - but are the rest of us (including the Reformation's greatest figure) simply 'wrong'?

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Friday, 10 August 2007 at 9:31am BST

"and I have said this before - we do not "pray to" Mary or the saints, but rather ask them to pray for us. So it really is comparable to asking our congregation of a Sunday morning, or asking our friend next door to pray for us, or for some particular intention."

Please don't confuse me with NP - I have no problem with religious ideas and practices that are not grounded in a literal reading of Scripture!
But I have a personal difficulty with praying through someone (did I ever say "to"? I didn't mean to), who is to all intent and purposes dead and no longer able to hear anything I say our loud, far less "think" of "feel" in prayer.

Hugh's reply goes some way to explaining the possibility behind it. Are there other schools of thought?

This is not about whether praying through the dead is helpful or not - it might become helpful if I could only understand the theology behind it a bit better.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 10 August 2007 at 9:52am BST

Dear depends on the issue - my point is quite simply that when traditions have developed which have no basis in scripture or the early church as led by the Apostles, they may be wrong. We sinners in the church have a history of corruption....our traditions are not necessarily good or right.

If the Lord were here, I suggest he might ask who taught us to pray to or through saints etc....because he did not and none of his Apostles are on record doing anything of the like.....

You know, some muslims think the Trinity is Father, Son and Mother......this is because of the worship of a human they see going on in the church and they are put off the gospel (as it appears anything but monotheistic)> I suggest certain human traditions in the church damage the gospel and put people outside off.

Posted by NP at Friday, 10 August 2007 at 10:08am BST

if you find Muslims concerned about understanding the theology of the Trinity you could do worse then point them to this site:

Prof. Ch. Troll, a German RC Jesuit who often represents the Holy See in the area of interfaith dialogue has written a book "Muslims ask, Christians answer", which can be read online. There is also a whole catalogue of questions and answers.

The book is available in English.
The remainder of the website has been translated by a team of translators into English and Turkish.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 10 August 2007 at 11:12am BST

"Prof. Ch. Troll,"

Aha! A troll quoted with approval!!


Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Friday, 10 August 2007 at 12:14pm BST

NP: I think there's risk of asymmetry here.

If I remember rightly, PSA is defended because it is 'misunderstood' or 'misrepresented' rather than 'wrong', and if (say) Steve Chalke describes it as 'cosmic child abuse' then blame is heaped on him. That a doctrine has scandalised him is seen as a cause for condemnation of the scandalised.

However, if a doctrine of which you don't approve is misunderstood or misrepresented, then it's the doctrine which is at fault, not the scandalised. Now I know that the easy way out of this is to say PSA is biblical and mariology is not - but can you not accept that for some of us it's not that simple?

Posted by mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) at Friday, 10 August 2007 at 12:19pm BST

Mynster - thanks for the giggle!!! Sorely needed today.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 10 August 2007 at 12:23pm BST

Apologies if my "Orthodox" quote sounded dismissive. It wasn't directed at you at all. As to praying through people:
"who is to all intent and purposes dead"

let me put it this way, and see Chris's post above as well. All time belongs to God, He being be outside Creation and time being merely one other aspect of Creation. The psalms talk about "a thousand ages are but as yesterday" in His sight. The problem is that we see things from our end, so to speak, bound as we are to the laws of physics governing the universe. There will thus always be things about God that we will never understand because they are things that can't be understood by those who are governed by those physical laws. We just have to put our human need for understanding aside and accept. You find this difficult, but there's value at some point in not trying to explain God, but just standing in His presence saying "Wow!" As to those who fret away their redemption worrying about what they "allowed" to do and what is "prohibited", well, some people need to know they live by the rules. Jesus doesn't mention going to a doctor, either. I find it humourous that their attitudes towards Law are pretty much the same as those of the Pharisees, for whose legalism Jesus had some pretty harsh words, but when any of us read Scripture, we see ourselves looking back, so I can't really fault them that much for the lack of self criticism. I just have try to get rid of this condescending judgemental pity of such people, it's not good for my soul.

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 10 August 2007 at 12:58pm BST

thank you for your explanations.
Of course I'm more than willing to let God be God, to accept the complete otherness and to stand in awe.
And I have no problem with time being different for God and that we shouldn't expect everything to fit into our world view.

But....allow me.... what was it that made the early church believe that you can ask the dead to pray for you?

I mean, NP is right, it's not obvious from Scripture. And I don't believe that the church ever discerned anything out of a random thought that it might be a nice idea if it was true.

So, yes, I accept the tradition of the early church, I accept that with God everything is possible.
What I still don't understand is what made the church discern that this, in particular, was possible and true.

Or am I being completely thick?

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 10 August 2007 at 2:26pm BST

Erika - thanks (we have a very effective outreach to muslims actually...another one baptised (full immersion) recently)

And you are not being "thick"....there are traditions in the church which have no biblical basis - things which the Lord and the Apostles would not recognise if we look at what they did and said....we do not have to accept these errors just becaues they are old errors. know the verses in the bible which show PSA is ONE of the key ways to understand the cross. I don't say it is the only way....but I will not accept anyone ignoring those verses because they want to pretend God's wrath on our sin is not real....that is false teaching.

Posted by NP at Friday, 10 August 2007 at 4:08pm BST

Erica - I don't think you're being "thick" at al, just asking a sensible question.

It isn't clear from scripture what the status of the dead exactly is. Some seems to suggest that the dead are simply dead - until the last day when they won't be dead anymore. Other parts seem to suggest that the dead continue to have some form of conscious existence. It appears to me that the latter is preponderant - the parable noted by Chris, for example, or the promise to the good thief that "this day you will be with me in paradise." On that basis, I see no reason why we should not ask the faithful departed (the Church Triumphant as it has been called) to pray for us in much the same way as we ask our earthly companions to pray for us.

Personally, I find NP's absolutist position baffling. Scripture does not tell us to have church buildings - but I rather suspect that NP belongs to a parish which has a building. And yes, the Lord did teach us to pray. He taught us one prayer. Is it therefore faithless to use other prayers? It would seem to follow logically from your assertions. If it is wrong for me to ask Mary and the saints to pray for me, then surely it must likewise be wrong to ask my companions in this life to pray for me. Do you never ask for the prayers of others, NP? Scripture does tell us to "do this," in reference to the eucharist - but I suspect that NP's parish church offers the eucharist less frequently than the anglo-catholic parish down the road.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Friday, 10 August 2007 at 4:20pm BST

No, you're not being thick. Frankly, I can't tell you the history, just that I understand that it wasn't something altogether formal. The early Church was persecuted, and did not lack for martyrs. People would celebrate their "birthdays" ie the day they were martyred and thus fully tasted the New Birth of the Kingdom. Asking the dead for their prayers is a pretty good way of saying that death has been done away with, "trampling down death by death" is the way the Orthodox (the non-posers)speak of Christ in the Resurrection. It wouldn't have been such a leap for the Church to approve of something that clearly stated what She believed, I'd figure. As to what's "in the Bible", well, the Apostles preached the Gospel for a good two or three decades before anything was written down. We are not told all the stories of Jesus, raising the questions of what other things He did that we don't know about, and why were we told the stories that DID get written down? The point is the faith is a Living Tradition, and the Bible is the user's manual. It doesn't tell us everything the faith is or can do. "Scripture-only" types only sin in so far as they think themselves more holy than the rest of, but that's something we all do at times. But they deprive themselves of so much, all the same. It's like starving yourself to death on bread and water because no-one said "Go on up to the buffet table, eat what you can."

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 10 August 2007 at 5:02pm BST

Malcolm, Ford, thank you.
It does make sense... or is beginning to... and it ties in with other glimpses... I will need to read more, think more, pray more, but I think I'm beginning to see a glimpse of where this whole idea is coming from.

Posted by Erika Baker at Friday, 10 August 2007 at 8:51pm BST

Malcolm...are you deliberately making silly points re one prayer and church buildings etc?

Of course the Lord did not teach us one prayer which is the only thing to be repeated....he taught us how to pray, he gave us a model....and he did NOT teach us to pray through his mother or anybody else.....he intercedes for us and taught us to pray direct to the Father.

Pls show me where the Lord or any of his apostles tell us to ask any deceased person to pray for us.....and I will not be so "absolutist"

Posted by NP at Monday, 13 August 2007 at 8:16am BST

Not only did Jesus NOT tell us to go to doctors, Scripture is pretty clear as to what the Christian response to illness is to be. I suspect many of those who eschew anything that "Jesus didn't say to do" have no problem with going to the doctor when they have even the smallest ailment (frustrated Emergency doc here!) and would be appalled at the "Romishness" of anointing anyone who is ill. But then, it's the "Romishness" of these things that's the real problem here, not whether or not it's Scriptural or can be derived from Scripture. Ask for Mary's prayers this week, and the next thing you'll be trying to put this guy

in place of the current Good Queen Bess. Well, I say the Rosary, and I live in, and enjoy, the only place in North America that still burns fires on Nov. 5! Kids in my hometown will soon be starting to gather the wood. Seriously! We'd start cutting "Bonfire Boughs" the first day of school! No Jacobite me!

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 13 August 2007 at 2:41pm BST

Did the historical Jesus ever say "pray through me" to get to the Father? Me thinks this is later early Churches tradition, one of many.

Posted by Pluralist at Monday, 13 August 2007 at 2:53pm BST

Pluralist....did I say he did?
No, I said he is interceding for us and He taught us to pray to the Father.

Posted by NP at Monday, 13 August 2007 at 4:46pm BST

Of course I'm deliberately making silly points, NP. I'm using a certain rhetorical technique to suggest that your position is silly.

But if you want to go there, NP, Jesus did tell us to go into a closet to pray. He says nothing about building grand gothic revival churches as one commonly finds in your part of the world.

By your logic, NP, I should never ask anyone to pray for me. But since I am confident that asking you to pray for me is fine with Jesus, I'm also quite confident that asking Jesus's mum to pray for me is likewise fine with him.

Ironically, Marian devotion is not a big part of my spiritual life - though I've said the odd Angelus and I have a lovely icon of Jesus mum hanging above the front door at home.

But you are arguing an odd position, NP, for you are saying adiaphora on things you like and non-adiaphora on things you don't.

If you don't find Marian devotion useful to your spiritual life, NP, then I suggest you don't do it.

And Ford - sentimentally I'm all in favour of giving Francis von Wittelsback his rightful thrones back. All of them. Scotland, England, France, Ireland and Bavaria. But it probably isn't practical.

Posted by Malcolm+ at Monday, 13 August 2007 at 6:35pm BST

So when you pray to the Lord, you don't mean the Lord Jesus, but the Lord Father?

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 13 August 2007 at 6:42pm BST

"I'm all in favour of giving Francis von Wittelsback his rightful thrones back."

Despite my non-Jacobite sentiments, I, on the Glorious 12th, toast the wee man in the velvet suit, and also "the King" with a glass of water held under my pint.

Am I the only one who finds it odd when people who claim to be Trinitarian Christians make statements that seem to indicate pretty clearly that they conceive of Jesus as other than the Second Person of the Trinity? There's a weird pseudoArianism in that that belies their claim to Trinitarianism, for a start, or at least reveals a certain muddiness of thinking in that regard. Puts me in mind of the "buddy Christ" from 'Dogma'.

Posted by Ford Elms at Monday, 13 August 2007 at 7:22pm BST

Who says he intercedes for us - ah, the early Churches. So if a later Church comes up with another tradition, what's different about that?

Posted by Pluralist at Tuesday, 14 August 2007 at 1:59am BST

Pluralist....I think you will find that is in the ....Bible actually (have a read of Hebrews)

Posted by NP at Wednesday, 15 August 2007 at 12:40pm BST

Yes, the early Churches - that is what I wrote. Who wrote the New Testament?

Posted by Pluralist at Thursday, 16 August 2007 at 1:04pm BST

Pointless to go round in circles with you Pluralist....I am a member of the CofE which does not belive that the bible was made up by some ancient people but is inspired by God....

Posted by NP at Thursday, 16 August 2007 at 2:18pm BST

Please! Any fule knowe that Jesus's first words were "Write this down!" Those three years between His Baptism in the Jordan and the Ascension were filled with Apostles taking dictation. Either he spoke really slow or they weren't all that able to write, since they don't seem to have that much output from what was essentially a three year exercise in transcription. I guess they didn't notice Saul sitting off by himself avidly writing down every word so he could send it all out as letters over his new name. The early Church had nothing to do with it.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 16 August 2007 at 2:34pm BST have made one of the strongest arguments I have heard against the conservative interpretation of the Bible....I guess that's why we still have Lambeth 1.10!

Posted by NP at Friday, 17 August 2007 at 5:37pm BST

It wasn't an argument, NP, it was a satire of your position!

Posted by Ford Elms at Friday, 17 August 2007 at 6:50pm BST
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