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Friday, December 16, 2005

Still Serious

So here's what I've posted in response to Y's ideas:


Greetings, Youssef --


I've found time to give your comments the attention they merit. Regarding the apostate Bishop and his thoughts on the Trinity, I have one major point. Whatever God's nature, that's what it is. If God is the absolute unity of the Moslems and the Jews, so be it. If God is the composite unity of the Christians, so be it. Not my, nor your, nor any man's best efforts will ever comprehend the Creator. Because you and I cannot encompass eternity, doesn't mean there is nothing that exists outside of time. That you and I cannot conceive a thing, has no bearing on its reality. What arrogance it would be, to suppose otherwise: "God must be what I think he is." We both understand that God is not limited by our capacity to imagine.

So, suppose I think it's absurd, that the One God would manifest or chose to manifest himself as Three Persons in this universe. Does my opinion make a thing so or not so? Of course it's an idea that can be explored only by analogy, just as the concept of infinity can only be apprehended, never comprehended -- we might hold it in our hand, but we'll never truly possess it. We understand that there is such a thing, but it's an understanding such as little children have of adult matters.

As for God being the "third of three," there is no knowledgeable Christian who says such a thing. This is a teaching of the Koran, not a teaching of the Bible. Ignorant Christians may say any number of things, but those informed on the matter maintain that Jesus is wholly God, as is the Father and as is the Spirit. A simplistic analogy is of a man, who is a father, and a husband, and a son. Well, which is he? All three. How can such a thing be? Well, obviously it can, because it is so. None of these roles affect his nature, only his relationship.

That Christian scholars have spent, as the Bishop says, "about seventeen centuries" exploring doctrine, hardly seems a worthwhile point. Moslem scholars have spent about thirteen centuries exploring Islamic doctrine, and if there is shame in that, it wouldn't be because of a lack of sincerity or intelligence. To say something in a scornful tone is hardly a refutation. Islam is a simple faith, and that makes it accessible. But I am utterly certain that there are subtle controversies that imams have bickered over for centuries. The point is proved in the shiites and the sunnis and the wahabis, in the sufis, kahrijites, ismailis, fatimids, nizari, alawis, bohra, ahmadiyyah, zayidis, yazidis, ibadites, and even in the druze and the baha'i. Allah is a simple god. God is more complex. Because of this, which is true? Again, our understanding doesn't make a thing true of false.

The Bishop's inability to understand this is no rare occurrence. But we are not saved by our understanding. We are saved by grace, through faith, unto good works. We are not saved by our subtle cogitations on the nature of God. We are saved by accepting the salvation offered as a free gift to any who would take it. I'm certain there are untold multitudes of Christians who have come to grace, with no sophisticated ponderings at all upon the triunity of God. That theologians enjoy such nice points is fine -- somebody needs to think about these things (me, for example -- look here). But they are no more saved, for all that, than the simple farmer who understands he's a sinner and that only one thing can wash away his guilt -- the blood of Jesus.

The Bishop says, "The essence, the person and nature of Allah are absolutely beyond human comprehension..." This is certainly a true statement, of God. Then he adds, "and therefore any attempt to define His essence is not only futile but even dangerous..." Alas, in the sentence before that, the Bishop says, "Allah is the only self-existing, knowing, powerful Being. He compasses, fills every space, being and thing; and is the source of all life, knowledge and force. Allah is the unique Creator, Regulator and Ruler of the universe. He is absolutely One." You see the problem, don't you? In his enumerations, the Bishop has defined Allah. Every statement of the character of God or Allah is a definition: "God is love" or "Allah is compassionate" -- definitions ... a = b. Whether we repeat what a scripture states, or we draw out logical conclusions from such scripture, we are making definitions. The Bishop demonstrates some not-very-clear thinking, here.

I'll get back to him in a moment, but first, a point on the Koran verses you've cited. I really respect your sincerity. I think faith is among the highest of virtues. And the verses you've quoted are clear statements of what faith should be: accept the authority of the book. This is, of course, what I would say of the Bible, and what a Hindu would say of the Gita, and what a Jew would say of the Torah. We are all men of faith, and we "bear witness". And as you say, "To you be your religion, and to me my religion," if it must be so. I would point out, however, a problem, with Sura 2:84. That Moslems believe in Allah is beyond question. But that they believe "what was sent down to Ibrahim (Abraham), Isma'il (Ishmael), Ishaque (Isaac), Ya'qub (Jacob) and Al-Asbat [the twelve sons of Ya'qub (Jacob)] and what was given to Musa (Moses), 'Iesa (Jesus) and the Prophets from their Lord" -- well, I have a problem with that, since what was sent down to the Patriarchs and given to Moses and Jesus, is the Bible, Old and New Testaments. And Moslems most certainly do not believe the Bible. Of course the justification is that the Bible has been corrupted. That would be an argument grounded not in logic or evidence, though, but in the rejection of the evidence. It isn't an argument at all, in fact, but a simple assertion: you're wrong and I'm right. In the discipline of logic, it's a classic example of the fallacy of 'begging the question.'

Returning to the Bishop, he talks about perfection. So will I. First, regardless of any belief or disbelief in the perfection of the triune God, what we all must certainly know is that we, for our part, are not perfect. In the eyes of a perfect God, we can be nothing but utterly unclean. All our righteousness is as filthy rags -- the image is of soiled menstrual cloths. Yet we are told in the Bible that the blood of Jesus will make us clean. How can blood make us clean? We are told that though our sins be as scarlet, we shall be white as snow. How can this be so?

God is perfect, and he made a perfect creation which was ruined by sin. We are made to be perfect, we who are imperfect but saved, by being IN Christ, so that when God looks at us, he sees Jesus. Again, it's an analogy, but that's the language the Bible uses.

Here's the ancient image: Jesus is called the Lamb of God. The Lamb is slain as a sacrifice, a sin offering. Why? A practice of shepherds makes it clear: when a ewe died in giving birth, there was an orphaned lamb; when a lamb was born dead, there was a wanting mother. The shepherd would bring the orphan to that mother, to be adopted. Wonderful solution, right? But the problem is, the mother would smell the lamb, and it didn't smell right -- the smell was wrong and the lamb was rejected. So what the shepherd did was skin the dead lamb and wrap the fleece around the orphan. The mother would then smell her own (dead) offspring, and accept the new lamb as her own. The writers of the New Testament knew such practices, and used them as analogies. We would use others. In any case, when I come before God, he sees his perfect Son, and I am adopted. You can be adopted too.

Come the resurrection, my spirit, now dead in sin, will be restored to true life. But for now, as a Christian, I am, as they say, indwelt by the Holy Spirit -- and my dead spirit is, as it were, revived moment to moment by this indwelling. Am I perfect? Certainly not. But God saves me perfectly.

How can the death of a man save all men? If an innocent man volunteers to take the place of a guilty man, and be executed for the crime of another, well the demands of the law are fulfilled, that the crime be paid for with a death. Blind justice is satisfied. But a man can sacrifice his life only once. If that man -- I should say Man -- has infinite worth, however, then he can pay an infinite price. Because Jesus' life was sinless (cf. Jn 18:38, Heb 9:14), death had no claim on Him, and so, as it were, Jesus paid a price which He did not owe, and so could redeem His sacrifice as He saw fit. Because His worth is infi­nite -- because He is God -- Jesus could ransom from death any and all whom He chose. He chooses those peo­ple who recognize the price He paid; He choos­es those who trust in the salvation He freely offers. Salvation is not free, but it is free to us.

Here's the thing: all sin is as mutiny, and the penalty for mutiny has always been death. We owe the price of not just one death, but countless -- one execution for each sin, each rebellion, each mutiny. How could we ever pay such a debt? That's why hell is eternal, because our sin is not just in the great failings of our lives, but in ever second, and part of a second, and smallest part of second, that we live outside of obedience to God. And that's just about every second of our lives.

Jesus, on the cross, suffered not just in his human body, but in his God nature. He suffered, in those darkest hours on the cross, not just for every man, but for every sin of every man. And not just every sin, but every eternity of damnation for every sin of every man. This is what Jesus did on the cross: He looked across the span of centuries and saw you. He saw your entire life spread out before him like a scroll. He saw every sin of every description, in its smallest part. He saw your infinite sin. And he asked himself, "Will I suffer eternal torment for that sin of Youssef's?" And the answer was, "Yes, I will suffer infinite torment for that sin of Youssef's." Then he looked at the next sin, some slightest nanosecond of your life latter. And he said, "Yes." And, "Yes." And "Yes and yes and yes..." So, for my part, I can only think of Jesus, and weep with gratitude, to be redeemed at such a price, by such a Man, for such love.

The fact is, Youssef, He did this for you. He saw your life, and your sin, and He loves you and suffered for you beyond our ability to comprehend -- like we can't comprehend the Trinity. But whether or not we understand, He died for me, and He died for you, and he died for everyone else. For my part, I said "thank you Jesus, for paying my debt." I think anyone who would reject such love, earns the hell he gets.

Ingratitude is such an ugly thing. Everyone who rejects Jesus does this: he stands at the foot of the cross and looks up at Jesus, and says in his heart, "I don't need you, Jesus. You're dying for nothing, like a fool -- as a fool. I'm good enough that God, if there is a God, will forgive me, if I need forgiveness, just because I'm me." There's only one unforgivable sin -- it isn't suicide ... that's the ultimate sin, the last sin, but it's forgivable. The unforgivable sin is rejecting the Holy Spirit: here's the Holy Spirit, who comes beside us as Comforter, offering you forgiveness, and you reject it. So you are unforgiven, and unforgivable. You're offered the pearl of greatest price and you scorn it, trample it beneath your feet, like swine. Ingratitude is such an ugly thing.

So there it is. You say Jesus was a prophet but certainly not God or the Son of God, and any report that says he was is in error so grave as to merit damnation. I say that Mohammed not only was not the Final Prophet, but that he wasn't a prophet at all -- rather, for whatever reason, a man who was wrong, and did not know God. Obviously, we are each others infidels, each denying the very core of the other's faith. The so-called Christians who reject the Trinity -- they're called Unitarians ... maybe analogous to the Druze -- are indeed close to Moslems, and might as well face Mecca when they pray, since they pray to a God indistinguishable from Allah. But what I believe is that God, without Jesus, is without excuse, for the pain and torment of this world. I'll post a poem, The Trial of God, that expresses this very challenging idea. Without Jesus, I'd be an atheist, because for all its beauty, this is an ugly world. But with Jesus, the world is redeemed.

But I've gone on too, too long.

Peace be with you.

Jack


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5 comments:

WildIvy said...

Hey how's it going? you write a lot.

Jack H said...

You must read a lot, to have found me.

:-)

J

Jack H said...

This is an excerpt of Y's comment -- I cannot locate the link:

J
---------------------


The former Bishop said: "The Trinitarian branch of the Christian Church, for about seventeen centuries, has exhausted all the brains of her saints and philosophers to define the Essence and the Person of the Deity; and what have they invented? All that which Athanasiuses, Augustines and Aquinases have imposed upon the Christians "under the pain of eternal damnation" – to believe in a God who is "the third of the three"! Allah, in His Holy Quran, condemns this belief in these solemn words:-

"They are certainly unbelievers, who say God is the third of three, for there is no God but the one God; and if they refrain not from what they say, a pain chastisement shall surely be inflicted on such of them as are unbelievers" (Sura 5:73)"

Then he added: "The Christian auspicatory formula: 'In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,' does not even mention the name of God! And this is the Christian God! The Christian Trinity- in as much as it admits plurality of persons in the Deity, attributes distinct personal properties to each person; and makes use of family names similar to those in the pagan mythology- cannot be accepted as a true conception of the Deity. Allah is neither the father of a son nor the son of a father. He has no mother, nor is he self-made. The belief in 'God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Ghost' is a flagrant denial of the unity of God, and audacious confession in three imperfect beings who, unitedly or separately, cannot be the true God."

The former Bishop then advised the Christians saying: "If the Christians desist from their vain attempt of defining the essence of the Supreme Being, and confess His absolute Oneness, then a union between them and the Moslems is not only probable but extremely possible. For once the unity of God is accepted and acknowledged; the other points of difference between the two faiths can be easily settled"

And he concludes that: "Allah is the only self-existing, knowing, powerful Being. He compasses, fills every space, being and thing; and is the source of all life, knowledge and force. Allah is the unique Creator, Regulator and Ruler of the universe. He is absolutely One. The essence, the person and nature of Allah are absolutely beyond human comprehension, and therefore any attempt to define His essence is not only futile but even dangerous to our spiritual welfare and faith; for it will certainly lead us into error" end of abstraction.

In other words, Because He is only one God, There should be only one path leading to the truth and that path must be Islam which simply means surrendering to, and accordingly worshipping, non but Allah alone without any associates or complications of any kind. Therefore, we Moslems do believe that Islam was and still is and will be the only path to truth from the beginning to the end of world.

Now, please reread these Ayahs with a broad mind:

"Do they seek other than the religion of Allah (the true Islamic Monotheism worshipping none but Allah Alone), while to Him submitted all creatures in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly. And to Him shall they all be returned."

"Say (O Muhammad SAW): "We believe in Allah and in what has been sent down to us, and what was sent down to Ibrahim (Abraham), Isma'il (Ishmael), Ishaque (Isaac), Ya'qub (Jacob) and Al-Asbat [the twelve sons of Ya'qub (Jacob)] and what was given to Musa (Moses), 'Iesa (Jesus) and the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between one another among them and to Him (Allah) we have submitted (in Islam)."

"And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers." (Sura 2:83, 84, 85)

Finally, " Say (O Muhammad SAW): "O people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians): Come to a word that is just between us and you, that we worship none but Allah, and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords besides Allah. Then, if they turn away, say: "Bear witness that we are Muslims." (Sura 3:64)

Or with 'maturity and tolerance' I recite: "To you be your religion, and to me my religion (Islamic Monotheism)." (Sura 109:6)

However, there is always a common area that all religions share, I mean the area of morals and ethics such as don't kill, don't lie, and etc., and since this is the main role of all religions in this world, the followers of all religions should cooperate in this field in order to establish better communities for all.



At the end, please correct your last sentence in your comment by putting 'ever' instead of 'never' unless you mean it. Hahaha.
I wish you all the best.
Highest Regards,

____________________

TRUTH_FINDER said...

Dear Jack,
Once again I find myself agree with most of your words, but from the Islamic view, with more admiration to your style and more respect to your decent frankness which is always welcomed. It seems that we see the same things but from different angles. I will be so frank with you even if my opinion seems strange to you, but don't catch me for that because as we agreed, both of us understand "the uselessness of quibbling."

In case of Jihad, I am not going to defend Islam not because Jihad is Islam's week point but because Jihad is the peak of the best deeds and the most honorable thing in Islam that all Moslems highly respect. Therefore, Why and what will I defend? But before you 'jump down my throat', let me explain to you Jihad from the real Islamic view away from the constant stereotyping and bashing the western media gives Islam.

The word "Jihad" in Arabic means "struggling" or "striving" while the word "war" is "harb" and the word "fighting" is "qitaal". Although the three words are sometimes misused as synonyms, you, being a literary man, can notice differences in meaning. The main difference I find is that "Jihad" has a wider meaning that may cover all aspects of a Moslem's life. In order to make it clearer I have to abstract these two paragraphs.

"In Islam, Jihad is a comprehensive process, which takes in the striving of an individual or a group of Moslems, to adhere to the divine teachings and values. In this sense, Jihad means a serious, continuous, and sincere struggle, in both the personal, as well as on the social level. It is a struggle to perform and maintain goodness, abolishing injustice, oppression, and evil from within oneself, as well as from the whole society. Thus, Jihad takes many forms; spiritual, social, economic, as well as political."

"Such striving (Jihad) should go along with all actions. This is to assure the noble and positive outcome of any of these actions. Jihad, when meaning to fight, is only one form of this striving, in its comprehensive meaning." (*)

Moreover, Prophet Mohammad, PEUH, after return from a battle said: "We've returned from the minor Jihad (the fighting) to the major Jihad, I mean Jihad against the evilness of oneself." You may notice his overall understanding of Jihad from this Hadith.

Jihad, when it means to fight, has one purpose and three targets. This Ayah is the first one that was revealed in connection with Jihad: "Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but transgress not the limits; for Allah lovth not transgressors" (2:190)

The purpose here, and all over the Noble Qur'an and Hadith, is "…in the cause for Allah…" not in the cause of expansion, imperialism or mischief of any kind (7:56), and not even for revenge (5:2).

The target of fighting here is self-defense "… those who fight you…" The second purpose of fighting in Islam is to defend oppressed people (4:75). The third target is to neutralizing tyrants in order to allow Non-Moslem people to know about Islam (just to know not to force them to convert) (8:39), (9:6)

Then, during the fight, you must be very strong to defeat your enemy; you are not going to give a warm welcome to your enemy in the battlefield. Therefore you find some Ayahs very strong like this one: (47:4). Meanwhile, during the fight itself, you find restrictions that must not be violated such as not to kill women, children or aged men, or to uproot a tree and etc. And moreover, whenever there will be a chance to stop the war and to hold peace, Moslems are urged to respond positively: " But if they incline to peace, you also incline to it, and (put your) trust in Allah. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower." (8:61)

There is a very important point that every body should understand. Islam is not just a faith like Christianity, it is a practical way of life for both the individual and the society, and therefore the society must have all means of power to be protected against aggressors.

There are two more proofs from history that Islam is not an offensive- but positive- religion. The first proof is those several millions of Christians who have never embraced Islam and are still living, generation after generation, in peace in Arabic countries among the Moslem majority. The second proof is the peaceful spread of Islam, without any war, in south eastern Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines etc. where Islam was spread through the good behavior of Moslem merchants went to these countries for business. If the sword was the only means of convincing people to convert to Islam, you would never see a Non-Moslem in the first case or a single Moslem in the other.

Finally, I want to make it clear to you that terrorism is totally prohibited in Islam. Although terrorists are either abnormal or misguided people, their punishment is the most severe one in Islam because of killing and injuring innocent people and because their deeds are, certainly, a kind of doing mischief in the land. Please read this Ayah: "The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off on the opposite sides, or be exiled from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and a great torment is theirs in the Hereafter." (5:33). I don't find a punishment in Islam more sever than this. But the difference between terrorists and freedom fighters should be clearly noticed.

I think that this continuous campaign against Jihad in the west dates back to the dawn of orientalism which was a companion and servant to imperialism. Because Jihad was, and still is, the main stream of resistance to imperialists, they must be disgruntled on Jihad and try to label it with all bad descriptions. Unfortunately, the west still imprisoned to this look to Jihad until today. One evidence is denouncing the Palestinians activities against the Israeli occupation although the Palestinians are freedom fighters that should be, at least morally, supported. This not only a kind of injustice and blind bias to Israel, but also it is against the west interests as well because it creates more bitterness in the hearts of Moslems, and there is no doubt that accumulated bitterness and feelings of being oppressed create hatred which is the ideal environment for growing terrorism against the west. This is not a justification for terrorism; Big No, it is a sincere advice or a warning that if the so called civilized west is really interested to eradicate terrorism, it should be fair enough towards oppressed peoples all over the world. On the ground, the opposite is happening in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and so on. Am I right?

Thank you for giving me this chance to speak openly about Islamic beliefs to the western society through you.

Highest Regards,

Youssef

Please see these more useful links:

http://www.harunyahya.com/terrorism1.php

http://www.harunyahya.com/terrorism3.php

http://63.175.194.25/index.php?ln=eng&ds=qa&lv=browse&CR=309&dgn=4

TRUTH_FINDER said...

Dear Jack,
Again you will find me so frank with you for the favor of truth. Regarding the homosexuals, lesbians and adulterers, they are, in my opinion, same as alcoholic/ narcotic drugs addicts in the sense that they are abnormal people suffering from psychic disorders because their practices are deviated away from the natural behavior. Because the harm of the first three is not exclusive to the person who commits such a practice, their punishment is more severe. As far as I know, there is neither freedom nor unlimited tolerance for such bad, unnatural and banned practices in all religions. However, in Islam, punishment of those destroyers of natural ways of life (particularly the first three) should not be executed without repeated confessions or unanimous agreement of four witnesses catching the accused red handed. If one of the four withdraws his witness, for a reason or another, the accused will not be punished at all and the other three witnesses can be punished for slandering the accused.

May be Human Rights activists will be unhappy with what I said here, but don't forget that HR is a secular modern movement with limited good effects but has its own slips and political misuses, while religions last and are more transparent and influential in the lives of people all over the world.

Thank you for providing me with those links about what happened in Indonesia and other places. I visited some of the sites speaking about beheading of the three Christian girls. Although atrocities were from both sides, I do believe that there should be no moral justification for terrorism regardless of the religious or ethnic background of the perpetrators. Such actions should be denounced everywhere.

As for the images you saw of Moslems (Palestinians) dancing in joy and handing candy in celebration of 9/11 atrocities, it is unacceptable behavior regardless of the big American bias and support to Israel. May be it seems funny to know that many people here say that the images were taken in a different occasion before 9/11 and reused by the malicious media to widen the gab between peoples and to prepare the theatre for the events came after. This what I heard people saying. It can be true or false, I have no evidence.

Highest Regards,

Youssef