Has Your Bible Become A Quran?

Those who engage in debates on a regular basis know that the argument itself can easily shape the points involved. This is another way of saying that some debates should be avoided entirely since merely getting involved in them can be the road to ruin. There are a number of Christian scholars (particularly among the Orthodox) who think that the classical debates between Christians and Muslims during the Middle Ages had just such disastrous results for Christian thinking.

Now when engaging in religious debates it is all too easy to agree to things that might make for later problems. It is possible, for example, to agree to a comparison of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament and the Book of the Quran. After all, Muslims have a holy book – Christians have a holy book. Why should we not debate whose holy book is better?

It is even possible to agree with the Muslim contention that Christians (and Jews) are “People of the Book.” Of course Muslims meant that Christians and Jews were people of an inferior book, but were somehow better than pagans. Again, it is possible, nevertheless, to let the matter ride and agree that Christians are “People of the Book.”

And it is also possible to give wide latitude to the Muslim claim that the most essential matter with regard to God is “Islam,” that is “submission.” After all, if God is the Lord of all creation, then how is submitting to Him, recognizing and accepting that He is God, not the most important thing?

But each of these proposals had disastrous results in the history of Christianity and may very well be the source of a number of modern distortions within the Christian faith.

Thus, at the outset I will state:

  1. The Bible is not the Christian Holy Book.
  2. Christians (and Jews) are not People of the Book.
  3. Submission to God is not a proper way to describe the Christian faith

Further, any and all of these claims, once accepted, lead to fundamental distortions of Christianity. An extreme way of saying this is that much of modern Christianity has been “Islamified.” Thinking critically about this is important – particularly in an era of renewed contact with Islam.

The Historical Debates

Most modern Christians are unaware of the contacts and debates between Christianity (particularly in the West) and Islam (particularly in Spain) during the Middle Ages. A great deal of the learning in early European Universities, especially in the model of scholasticism, owed much to the encounter with Islam scholasticism – this was especially so for the work with Aristotelean philosophy. Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars, such as Thomas Aquinas, Moses Maimonides, and Ibn Rushd (Averroes), are foundational for Medieval thought. (Averroes is sometimes called the “Founding Father of Western secularism“). But the rationalist movement represented by these schools had lasting effects in the Christian West – not all for the best.

The notion of the Scripture as the Book whose place and authority in Christian life are similar to the Quran in Islamic life is one such idea. Islam has no Church – no one stands between the believer and Allah. There are communities, to be sure, but not in the necessary form of classical Christianity. The exaltation of the sovereignty of God and the working of the Divine Will (predestination) are hallmarks of Muslim thought. They eventually become hallmarks within certain forms of Christian scholasticism.

The Protestant Reformation is rightly described as a product of Christian scholasticism. Other historical forces shaped it, but it is worth noting that Luther, Calvin and their like were all “schoolmen.” Their ideas, particularly in Calvin, were largely absent prior to the Medieval dialogs with Islamic scholasticism. It is not that the Reformers borrowed directly from Islam – but that Islam contributed certain key notions that have, in time, become foundational for certain segments of contemporary Christianity.

The Bible is not the Christian Holy Book

As I have recently written, the Bible is properly seen as the Holy Scriptures, a collection of writings that span some 1500 years or more. They represent a variety of genres, address very different situations and understandings of God, and lastly (in the case of the New Testament) represent the internal documents of the primitive Christian community. Christians treat these books as inspired, though there are some books not included, or only included by some Christians, that are also recognized as having a case for inspiration.

The Christian Scriptures are books (particularly in the Old Testament) that have a unique history of interpretation. Christians and Jews, traditionally, do not read these books in the same manner. In such a sense, they do not possess an “objective” meaning. Indeed, Christian Fathers have recognized more than one meaning being present in the text.

The Christian community predates its own texts (the New Testament) and is not described as in any way having a foundation on the Scriptures – the Apostles and Prophets are described as the foundation of the Church. And though the Tradition does not describe the Scriptures as somehow inferior to the Church, neither do they consider the Scriptures to exist apart from the Church. They are the Church’s book.

In short, the place of the Scriptures within Christianity are utterly unlike the place of the Quran in Islam. Any confusion on this point is a distortion of the Scriptures.

We are not People of the Book

Christians are not baptized into the Bible. Jews were circumcised and made part of the Covenant people before ever a word of Scripture was written. God revealed Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob some hundreds of years before Moses ever wrote a line.

Christians may rightly see Islam as an ersatz version of Christianity – an attempt to create a rival to meet the peculiar needs and desires of the man, Muhammed. The Quran is Muhammed’s distorted idea of the role played by a “book” in the life of Christianity and Judaism. It is his attempt to create a rival. But this book, unlike any writing or utterance of a Biblical prophet, came with new claims. The Quran is what a misinformed desert preacher thought the Christian and Jewish holy books looked like. It is a poor substitute and a caricature of those writings. In this sense, the Quran is more akin to the Book of Mormon, a fabrication that tells what Upstate New York con-men thought an ancient religious book should look like. It tells us much about the mind of 19th century Upstate New York, but nothing about God. The Quran tells us about the perception of a 7th century Arabian merchant, but nothing about God.

It is thus a supreme religious irony that such a misperception should have changed how Christians saw their own sacred texts. But, it can be argued, this is indeed the case. The movement from authoritative Church to authoritative book that occurs over the 15th and 16th centuries (the Protestant Reformation), should not be considered apart from the dialog with Islam in the two or three centuries that preceded it. It is worth noting that scholasticism in the West was largely begun in Andalusian Islam. It was not a natural development from within. Scholasticism was ultimately rejected in the Christian East.

Martin Luther’s, “Hier, stehe ich!” (demanding that only a Scriptural argument would be an acceptable response to his position) would have been unimaginable four or five hundred years before. The “Bible” had not yet become a Christian Quran. Today, however, many Christians are indeed, “People of the Book.”

Christianity is not submission to God

On the face of it, denying that Christianity is submission to God seems ludicrous. Surely,  if God is truly God, then submission to Him is the only proper response. But submission is not a word that passes the lips of Christ. His invitation to become a child of the Father is not a demand to submit to the Supreme Being. It is why there can be no conversion at the point of a sword in Christianity, and why conversions at the point of a sword have never ceased in Islam. (Such conversions have indeed occurred in Christian history – but have been later subjected to deep criticism and condemnation).

The question placed in Christian Baptism (Orthodox) is: “Do you unite yourself to Christ?” This is the language of union, reflecting St. Paul’s teaching that Baptism is union with the death and resurrection of Christ. The modern Evangelical phrase, “Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” has more in common with Muslim submission. For there need be no union implied in the question – many who have become Christians under the guise of this question have no perception of union whatsoever. 

Obedience to the gospel is, in critically important ways, not at all the same thing as submission. In proper Christian understanding, obedience is a cooperative action, a synergy between God and believer. As such, it is part of the eternal dance of union between Creator and created. Submission (particularly as taught in Islam) contains no synergy – it is the recognition of a force that can only move in one direction. It is the diminution of the human person, even its obliteration. Obedience, rightly understood, is an invitation into true Personhood – and, strangely, the beginning of true freedom.

Classical Christianity exalts the dignity of the human person and proclaims a gospel that unites humankind to God. The proclamation of Christ’s Lordship, though derived from Christian teaching, can easily become a distortion that takes on the submission demands of classical Islam. I have seen such a Christianity. It is not a pleasant place to dwell.

Contemporary Christianity needs to come to its historic senses and reexamine its various distortions of the gospel. Christ is not a cypher for Allah – they are nothing alike. The fullness of Christian distinctives is required in our present confrontation with Islam. The Bible is not the Christian Quran. It is nothing like it. Being able to articulate this is essential. Christians are the Body of Christ and not People of the Book. The absence of a true ecclesiology in contemporary Christianity is a hallmark of its Islamification. The call to relationship with God in Christ, true union in the Divine Life of the Triune God, must be rightly proclaimed and taught among Christians. We have centuries of unthinking to do if we are to reclaim the wholeness of the Christian faith and speak truth to error.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.



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174 responses to “Has Your Bible Become A Quran?”

  1. Rayla Avatar
    Rayla

    I’m always feel a little below par when I hear and see people debating scriptures. As a recent convert from Evangelical Protestantism, I am still struggling with how now to pray….

  2. Aaron Friar Avatar

    Thanks for this clear and precise correction. It is quite easy for Christians to get carried away with other faith’s description of them, while losing our own self-understanding.

  3. Samn! Avatar

    Your brief account of the theological results of Christian contacts with Islam might be somewhat enriched by more engagement with the Eastern Orthodox encounter with Islam, which was no less Aristotelian than in the West (given that almost all post-Chalcedonian theology was strongly Aristotelian– think of Saints John of Damascus and Anastasius the Sinaite). I would recommend in particular John Lamoreaux’s translation of the works of Theodore Abu Qurra or the anthology I helped put together, “The Orthodox Church in the Arab World”.

  4. Margaret Avatar
    Margaret

    Very nice. Thanks for the encouragement.

  5. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Samn
    I’m sure you’re correct. Though it is important to note the Scholasticism ultimately has another history within the East – at least in the Hesychast Councils that set it in its place. In the West, something similar might have been possible – but did not happen. Rather, certain wings within the Church take flight in the Reformation. This unleashed forces that would ultimately transform Christianity into an unrecognizable shape – individualized, devoid of sacrament, consumer-driven, etc.

  6. Michael Avatar
    Michael

    Thank you, Fr. Stephen!

    I have made the same argument myself for many years. In fact, I have made the identical statement, over and over again – “The Bible is not the Christian Koran!”

    Indeed, I regard Protestantism as the Islamification of Western Christianity. The great German historian Oswald Spengler made the same argument in the second volume of his Decline of the West, in the chapter entitled, “Pythagoras, Mohammed, Cromwell” (pp. 295-315, Volume II).

    I will go farther than this. I state (along with Metropolitan Jonah) that Protestantism is coming to its end. Because of this, it is entirely possible that British North America (i.e., Canada and the U.S.) may ultimately join North Africa, as a place which was once solidly Christian, but from which Christianity has completely disappeared. Whether Protestant Christianity will be replaced by some form of Islam, or some recrudescence of pagan or animistic religion, remains to be seen. However, it is not likely to survive, as we know it, for another century.

  7. Jason Avatar
    Jason

    Father, Amen.

  8. David Avatar
    David

    Blessings to you Father,

    Maybe it is because I am Catholic, and therefore a reader of St Thomas of Aquinas, but I am under the impression that you are infering that scholasticism is not only indebted to Islam, but is actually a force of islamisation of Christianity. When reading St Thomas, I am not under this impression. I know that he is not the totality of scholasticism, but yet if the argument does not take him into account, then the generalisation of this school of thought cannot be done.

    If we move away from this, I must say that your text is very inspiring, and I came to the same conclusion regarding the Scriptures. Tradition is above the Scriptures since they were produced by it (especially in the New Testament); said Tradition which was present in the first link between God and Adam long before any written word.

    Thank you again,
    David.

  9. Nikoletta Avatar
    Nikoletta

    Wow, this was fantastic, thanks so much Fr. Stephen for writing it. I learned a lot and will carry it forward with me.

  10. Laurie Hooten Avatar
    Laurie Hooten

    Dear, brave Fr. Stephen,

    Boy, you have taken on a LOT in your last two blog posts (Reformation theology and Islam), and I am so grateful. I appreciate knowing what the historical ties are and the beautiful, life-giving distinctions of Christianity in its fullness.

    Please keep on educatin’ us and duck when you need to.

  11. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    Fr. Stephen,

    I found this article to be very interesting and informative, especially to one such as me who knows little about history. However, as usual, I am left with questions. 🙂

    While fully appreciating your beautiful description of “the eternal dance of union” between the Creator and the created, we are still called upon to worship God, i.e. we are not His equals. I could not help but feel there was some hair-splitting going on regarding the meaning of “submission”, so as to differentiate Christianity and Islam.

    Most translations I read of James 4:7, read “submit yourselves therefore to God” or something similar.

    I found myself wondering how a sincerely and devout Muslim would feel about your characterization – I suspect that most would condemn a sword-induced conversion as much as a devout Christian would. The first sentence at a randomly chosen Islamic website had this to say: “The word Islam means voluntary “Submission” or “Surrender” to the Will of God. It derives from the root word “salam,” meaning peace.”

    Please be assured that I am not making an argument in favor of Islam or negating the other concerns that you mention. I am just wondering why you chose to make this particular argument. I hope to submit to God (and surrender and unite and dance) all voluntarily and lovingly, by the help of His abundant grace.

  12. Dianne Farah Avatar
    Dianne Farah

    Not sure who David Teems is, but bravo David. I am not giving up on Orthodoxy any more than I would give up on a sick child, but I acknowledge the sickness. I am more worried for my children and grandchildren because unless something changes in the Church here in the Western world, they will be wanderers, seeking but not finding Christ in our Church.
    As for this article, I am not sure this gentleman understands the reverence Islam gives Christ and the Virgin Mary, in many parts of the Middle East, nor the idea of Dorotheos that we, of many faiths, are all on the hub of a wheel moving towards the spoke….and the closer we come to God in the center, the closer we come to each other. It serves no purpose, in my way of thinking, to neglect to look for the image of God in every man, or to academically put up walls instead of building bridges. I have no desire to fragment an already fragmented world. If we are people of love, then we need to work out our own salvation, and by doing that, we provide Christ’s light to the world.

  13. Theodoros Avatar
    Theodoros

    INSPIRING COMMENTARY. TRUST ME WHEN I SAY YOU ARE NOT THE FIRST TO DRAW TIES BETWEEN THE QURAN AND BOOK OF MORMON. THANK YOU FOR AN EDIFYING POST!

  14. Eric Avatar

    A hugely edifying post – and so very timely, Father Stephen

    Glory to God for all things

  15. Eric Avatar

    As I have been pondering the disappearance of an account of the nature of the church in Western Christianity, I had not seen the link with Islam. As one who has often sought to remind my brothers and sisters that ‘The Bible’ does not equate to Quran, that ‘Comparative religion’ is a way of seeing that is hugely distorted, I rejoiced to read your words.

  16. Scott Avatar
    Scott

    This was excellent, thank you.

  17. David Avatar
    David

    Thought provoking article but with a number of historical theological problems – at least in relation to Calvin and Luther. To state that they were “schoolmen” is simply not accurate. Both Luther and Calvin (and for that matter Zwingli as well) were reacting against scholasticism. All three were influenced to varying degrees by humanism with its emphasis on returning to the sources – hence the sola scriptura. This is more true for Calvin and Zwingli. Calvin’s primary education was not in theology. One significant commonality between Luther and Calvin was that they were both trained as lawyers before they became theologians this clearely influenced aspects of their theology.
    With regard to Calvin – while he is often associated with strong views on predestination ( hence the supposed influence of Islam) actually union with Christ is central to his theology and in this and a number of other areas Calvin scholars generally recognise that he was deeply influenced by the eastern Fathers.

  18. John Avatar
    John

    Reading your article carefully you say that the bible is “the church’s book” but deny it is the “Christian holy book”. But from an orthodox viewpoint, Christian and church ought to be the same thing. I wonder then if you may be overstating your case.

  19. Danny Klopovic Avatar
    Danny Klopovic

    While I am Anabaptist, not Orthodox, I appreciate this blog and this article and the 3 key points made at the outset are excellent. I’ve always thought the same, and have said similar in conversations with Muslims.

    The only difference I have is that I would not describe Islam as an ersatz form etc 🙂

  20. Ken Kannady Avatar
    Ken Kannady

    Enlightening article, Father; however, some of the replies reveals an error in many of us who are believers. My point being Christianity is a family and we shouldn’t pick and choose who is actually in the family. Our union is with God thru His Son and we are born from above ! You can choose your friends, but not your family. All schisms reveal this error but Jesus prayed that we would be “one” as he was One. The authority of the Church shows us who is in the family and whomever God has joined together let no man put asunder. Ken

  21. Jon Kennedy Avatar

    Masterful. Thank you, Fr. Stephen.

  22. Sabrina Avatar
    Sabrina

    Very interesting. A lot sacred cows slaughtered here as it were. It should be realized by anyone of faith that we humans can’t and indeed shouldn’t limit God to a mere book or set of books. He is far more powerful than that.

  23. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Mary,
    Any Muslim who would denounce conversion at the point of a sword would have to denounce Muhammed. I recommend reading on the history of Islam. We are tragically seeing a historical re-enactment event in the Mideast right now.

    As I noted (bringing in the thought of obedience) – the kind of submission taught by many has no proper place in Christianity. There is self-emptying – which is met by God’s own self-emptying. There is no “Islam.”

  24. Sylvia Avatar
    Sylvia

    Glory to Jesus Christ.

    Father Stephen, Thank you for your explanation of Islam’s influence on the way so many of us christians think and behave. You help me understand foundations of some of our modern errors that run rampant within most christian communities.

    There’s just one thing though……. Could you possibly write more on this subject, you know, beef-it-up a bit. I want more, much more, information. I thirst for the truth, Father!

    Sylvia

  25. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    I am not sure how accurate what follows is theologically but it is the fruit of my life moving toward union with our Lord.

    In Islam the submission is to the will of Allah. In Christianity there is a form of submission, but it is not to God’s will per say but to His love for us. Such love is not a one-way street. It cannot be and remain love.

    I know a man from Egypt who was raised a Jew. In his late teens, his grandmother converted to Coptic Christianity and he followed her. He spent a lot of time in the monastic life. He was sent to England to study by the Coptic Pope. There he met Bishops Ware and Bloom and became Orthodox. He knows Hebrew, Arabic, Latin, English and several others. He has studied the Koran and at one point had pretty much the entire Bible committed to heart.

    While in England a Muslim friend came up to him and asked why he was not Muslim. The man replied, if you can show me in the Koran where Allah is love, kenotic love, I will convert Right Now! The Muslim man went away sorrowful because he had no answer.

    He also attends Protestant churches frequently, often, or so he says asking the pastors afterwards why they preach heresy, then proceeds to educate them. He gets away with it because he has a tremendous spirit of love, an overwhelming knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, the Koran and the Torah.

    The problem with the Bible as “A Holy Book” is that such an idea is fundamentally anti-incarnational. It ignores the fact that Jesus took on our full human nature so that we might share intimately in the divine nature, not from afar and not in subjection to anything but the ineffable love that gives rise to the incarnation.

    God’s will for us is mercy, transformation and freedom. Most human beings would rather not be free. We prefer our slavery either to sin or the obedience to some form of law and/or morality.

    The meaning of the Gospel is greatly changed by whether one looks upon it as something we must do or something into which we must be changed by the grace of our Creator. As Father Stephen has said often: Jesus Christ did not come to make bad men good, but to make dead men live.

    That is why Orthodox missiology is defined by feeding the hungry, caring for the sick and the orphaned as well as teaching the truth of the Church but excluding no one.

    What needs to be ‘reformed’ in the Church especially here in the U.S. is that we need to do more of the activities the Gospel of Matthew indicates are salvific–not because we are ordered to, but because we can’t help it.

    ….and I am lacking the most in this of anyone I know. May God forgive me, a sinner.

    P.S. One of the most inspiring examples of the Christian approach I know is the life of a Roman Catholic saint, Damien the Leper. He exiled himself to the ‘sour tongue of land’ where the Hawaiian leper colony was to care for the native Hawaiian lepers. He built houses, infrastructure, fed and educated and tended to the health needs of those under his care as well as guiding them spiritually. He wrote in his journal that the happiest day of his life was when he came down with the disease. He was finally at one with his people. He also wrote: “…….I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all to Jesus Christ. “

  26. Fr. Barnabas Powell Avatar

    Father, thank you for this piece. It has helped me a great deal give words to a nagging notion!

  27. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Dianne Farah, the idea of being on a wheel with many spokes moving toward the center only works if folks have the same God or are actually seeking the truth.

    Certainly, our Lord will race out to meet us when He sees us coming from afar, but only if we are going in the right direction.

    The metaphor can so easily be used in a false egalitarian manner that denies the Truth so that all we end up doing is wandering more deeply into the desert of our own passions and getting further away from God.

    Does Islam give veneration to Mary as the Theotokos? Does Islam acknowledge that Jesus Christ, one of the Holy Trinity and incarnate Lord is our savior?

    I doubt it.

  28. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    No. Islam has a problem with exactly that unfortunately Michael, namely God’s humility and sacrifice. The words exchaned between the many Greek neo-martyrs at the hand of the Turks (as documented mainly by St Nikodemus) demonstrate precisely that.

  29. Christopher Avatar
    Christopher

    I am personally always a little surprised when otherwise very traditional and reasonably informed Christians have a ignorant view on “the Muhammadans”. I do not use the term “ignorant” in a disparaging manner, but in it’s original meaning of “lack of understanding or awareness”. A few posters on this here have asserted a sort of ignorant syncretism, even to say that the Muhammadans long history of conversion at the point of the sword is somehow a perversion of “the prophets” religion! This happened recently in my own family when my wife’s parents (who after growing up Southern Baptist recently read the Fathers and converted to Roman Catholicism) both asserted to me that “we (the Muhammadans and Christians) worship the same God”.

    Muhammad was (among other things) a military general whose soldiers quite literally raped, killed, and pillaged. To compare him to Jesus Christ (or other Old Testament prophets, or even the Buddha) is a very strange thing indeed. Is it the modern persons general ahistorical philosophy and that we are all in some way victims of the government schools? When a president Bush, and his successor repeatedly say in public that “Islam is a religion of peace” is this some Machiavellian political ploy, or are they truly that ignorant? Someone said above that the Muhammadans have in the past achieved relatively stable (and perhaps even “peaceful” in their own way) societies. True, but is it because of or in spite of their religion?

    Here are the basics: Our Father, and His Son and Spirit do not = Allah and Islam does not = peace.

    One of the things said about Muhammad (by the Quran and his followers) was that he was the best of the deceivers (liars), especially in war (thus beguiling the enemy). Is this what his “moderate” followers are doing when they beguile so many of the secularized Christians in the West? Perhaps…

  30. Tyler Avatar
    Tyler

    Fr. Freeman,

    I admit that I reacted negatively to this post. I have some honest questions, and I do not intend to be argumentative.

    Why do you feel that we should find true Christianity and use it to parse the errors of Islam, and to follow the thread of those errors to erroneous strains of Christian thought?

    While you clearly know a great deal about both Islamic and Christian traditions (and their historical connections), I reached the end of this post and felt twinges of fear and judgment – reactions that, admittedly, may have more to do with me than with your words. But we are living in a time where fear of Islam is rampant in the Christian world, and that fear is driving a wedge between Christians and a billion peaceful people.

    Some may argue that “peaceful” Muslims are deluding themselves about the nature of their religion, but that seems like a dangerous direction to focus our thoughts. Christ is not a “God of the Book,” but I worry that Christians are increasingly judging the relationship between Muslim people and God through *their* book.

    I guess I’m wondering how the historical perspective that you’ve provided should inform our spiritual lives – particularly as we relate to our Muslim brothers and sisters.

    Forgive me if I have understood your post badly or not at all. I appreciate your perspective very much.

  31. Nancy Ann Avatar
    Nancy Ann

    Thank you Fr. Stephen this has been most interesting.

  32. Christopher Avatar
    Christopher

    Tyler says:

    “But we are living in a time where fear of Islam is rampant in the Christian world, and that fear is driving a wedge between Christians and a billion peaceful people.”

    Interesting, excluding those Christians (Orthodox of course, but also Oriental, Latins, and Protestants) who actually live in dhimmitude (a somewhat problematic term I know but relevant in this context) under the Muhammadans I find a distinct lack of fear among Christians. They seem mostly ignorant of the religious, or even existential threat, posed by such an intolerant philosophy. Indeed, they are quite naive about the intentions of robust non-modern and non-western forms of thought and quite happy to believe gross untruths like “Islam is a religion of peace”

    “But we are living in a time where fear of Islam is rampant in the Christian world, and that fear is driving a wedge between Christians and a billion peaceful people.”

    Difficult not to be somewhat flippant here. “rampant”? “wedge”? Well, if only. I would say that you might be more correct in Europe, where virtually unrestricted (and well intentioned) immigration is revealing to the now mostly non-Christian Europeans just what it means to come face to face (in society, government, business, etc.) with a robust and anti-modern religion. In a 3 or 4 generations when France is “Francostan” and what few “Christians” are left (along with many many more completely bewildered modernists) are living in dhimmitude – well, then perhaps “rampant fear” will be the actual reaction…

  33. Tyler Avatar
    Tyler

    Christopher:

    I apologize if I chose hyperbolic terms that are misleading. They seem to apply within my western, largely protestant circles (and in Europe, as you mentioned).

    I am not arguing that “Islam is a religion of peace” or dismissing the intolerable conditions that practitioners of other faiths encounter when living within an Islamic society of particular character. Instead, I am asking whether blanket statements like “Islam is a religion of peace” or “Islam is a religion of violence” move us towards Christ.

    Muslims themselves differ greatly about what their religion says about humanity and God (as do Christians, obviously). Why must we pick sides? I’m not trying to be a relativist. I just get the sense that these religious comparisons aren’t far off from political squabbles, and ultimately serve as distractions: they keep us focused on ideologies instead of God and people.

    Even in your dire scenario where the West has been subsumed into Islam within 3 to 4 generations, how does that mean that we should change as Christians right now? Are we supposed to take up arms and fight? How are we supposed to talk to our children about Muslim people? Maybe I’m being naive, but if the end result of my exploration is to see “Muslim” before I see “person,” and then to be afraid, I may have let myself be blown off course.

    This is an interesting and important discussion. I appreciate everyone’s comments.

  34. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Tyler,
    A question. What do you consider the greatest danger for Christians in today’s world? Is it any different for Orthodox Christians?

    My concern in the article is for, not the historical trail, but the current reality of a Christianity that has become deformed and morphed into something it should not be. It is Churchless, and without the Sacraments. It distorts the place of the Scriptures, and I could go on. The most precious gift in our faith is what it means to be a Person created in the image and likeness of God and that salvation, through Christ, is union with the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit.

    The article is a way of drawing attention to these deformations and a description of a return.

  35. David Lindblom Avatar
    David Lindblom

    My comment here is only regarding Islam and it’s present and past use of war and violence. I recently attended a talk given by a Catholic theologian Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio where he was giving a talk entitled “Islam: Friend or Foe”. He admitted that while he was not an expert on Islam he had studied the Koran and had many friends who had converted from Islam and therefore is very familiar w/ its teachings. He said the fundamental reason Islam has historically always been prone to war and violence is that their view of man differs from that of Christianity. Islam puts no inherent worth in man. He is not made in the image of God/Allah. Even a practicing Muslim is only considered a slave and those outside of Islam are infidels and are to be subjugated. It’s a very slippery slope to violence when there is no inherent worth given to themselves much less their non-Muslim fellow man.

  36. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    I have always wondered how faithless the examples of us Christians must be in the West for a westerner to turn to Islam in order to find the missing fervour he seams to be longing for. I have even admired the plain-for-all-to-see ‘testament’ of Muslims’ attire, which we only have priests and monastics practicing in Christianity (Orthodoxy). But if one studies Muhammad’s words in the Quran, they will soon see that the fervour is misdirected: he clearly declares a total and everlasting war against all who do not believe (infidels). The main topic that keeps returning throughout in fact is all about “believers and unbelievers”.

    All non-followers of the of Muhammad cult, are therefore starkly offered the following three choices:

    Either (A): Convert and be saved.

    Or else (B): Submit to endless and complete dishonour – this is permitted as an option for the ‘peoples of the Book’, as they describe Jews and Christians (and Zoroasterians to my knowledge).

    Or else (C ): Be killed, enslaved or forced into conversion, for is the option for Atheists, Hindus, Buddhists etc.

    Those rare exceptional sects that have been influenced by Christianity and demonstrate a different spirit –at odds with the Quran itself – are most certainly just that: exceptional and at odds with the Quran.

    In the lives of the new Martyrs, martyred by the Muslims, we see that they certainly saw “persons” and not Muslims and tried to open their eyes to their Muslim delusion. However, we often witness, unfortunately, with what scarcity this eye-opening would take place…
    We talk differently about the Quran and the Muslim religion to our children and differently about every single human soul (whether Muslim, Atheist, Christian or other) for whose salvation Christ is crucified. We, ourselves, and our children need to see all as the Merciful Lord who desires their salvation sees them, and with a belief in this eschatological purpose of God’s Kingdom for them. But being innocent and well meaning as the dove is combined with being wise and discerning as the serpent.

  37. Andrew Avatar
    Andrew

    I wish I could read all the comments as the ones I read were quite valuable, as was the article. I particularly appreciated this:

    “obedience is a cooperative action, a synergy between God and believer. As such, it is part of the eternal dance of union between Creator and created.”

    It made me happy because I’ve been thinking lately about how the first verse in the Bible says, “God created,” not, “God dictated,” or even, “God commanded.”

    As a creator He is an artist before being a law-giver, or so I suggest tentatively. Pope Benedict drew a parallel between the ten commandments in Ex 20 and the 10 “And God saids” in Genesis one, arguing that the commands echo the creation and reveal the pattern contained in that creation. When we break one of the 10, we sing out of tune.

    It’s submission only in the sense that a violinist submits to the conductor or a wide receiver submits to a quarterback. It’s a synergy.

    God forgive me.

  38. deacon john vaporis Avatar
    deacon john vaporis

    The Eastern Christian world suffered greatly from contact with Islam and its ideas. This is what created centuries of Iconoclasm and facilitated a rift between the Church and Monophysitism. It is no coincidence that Islam slithered into Western Europe through Spain. This is where Charlemagne’s kingdom was, where his alternative theology was formed, and the beginning of the feudal tyranny of the triangle over the Roman Christian circle. This circle emulates the three persons of the Trinity dancing in conciliar Love, and the synergy between God and His creation. The Frankish triangle matches the “submission” learned from Islam, and is not the conciliar triangle of the Trinity.

    As Mohamed creates “a rival” to Christianity, so Charlemagne’s creates a rival to the real Roman Church, which lives in the East. Charlemagne’s new theology, the distorted Islamic/Frankish relationship of God and man, and a new vision for the Church in Western Europe seeds the further disasters of the Reformation.

  39. Christopher Avatar
    Christopher

    ” I just get the sense that these religious comparisons aren’t far off from political squabbles, and ultimately serve as distractions: they keep us focused on ideologies instead of God and people.”

    I get what you are saying and agree to a certain extant. I would add though that in the diverse culture in which we live (well, at least non-monastically) you can’t really hide from certain “ideological” or “political” squabbles because they are at bottom about who and what we are (anthropology). For example, it turns out that some in my small mission parish are involved in a “faith discussion” group in the community. One of these discussions that took place this past summer was a “dialogue” with the Muhammadans. The first assertion, and principle on which this discussion took place was that we worship the same God. Obviously I did not participate ;). Like I mentioned above, a similar discussion took place at our most recent family gathering. These reveal a deficiency of knowledge about their own faith. I agree with Dino and the Tradition, “being innocent and well meaning as the dove is combined with being wise and discerning as the serpent.”

    For me, I start with my family and friends. So I will be educating my children when they are old enough about what the Muhammadans really believe, encouraging my fellow parishioners to look a little deeper, etc.

  40. Roman Avatar
    Roman

    Great post! It wasn’t until I came upon the Eastern chruch, that I saw the similarities between Islam and protestantism. Sadly many in our historically illiterate culture fail to see this. The belif that our raltionship with God is one of submission, plays a large role in fundementalism, which is based largely in fear. As a former Protestant I can truly say that it was the fear of hell that made me refuse to see the world from any other prospective.

  41. Andrew Avatar
    Andrew

    Fr. Stephen,

    I enjoy reading your thoughtful posts! One question and a comment. First, what do you do with the passage in James that calls for submission to God? Are we to understand submission in this text as subservient to the Pauline and Johanine understanding of union with Christ? Second, the doctrine of predestination in the Reformed tradition (even the strongest ones) still put the human response to God in Christ as the determining factor for salvation which is very different than the deterministic, capricious doctrine of divine sovereignty present in Islam. In your post you show that in chronology there is a historical link, but how does it work out that the two are conceptually similar? Thank you for taking the time to read my question and comment. God bless and keep you. Andrew

  42. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    Fr. Stephen,

    RE: your comment to me at 8:01 AM today (Thursday)…I am always honored when you take the time to respond to my comments even when I am foolish and ignorant. I am most grateful.

    First, let me acknowledge that I know the purpose of your post was not to insult Muslims. I get that and appreciate very much the overall point you were making – excellent as always.

    My primary reason for following up on this point is because I know how it can feel (as most can) to be on the receiving end of religious misunderstanding. Several times now it has happened to me that I have been deeply and prayerfully involved in reading a book by or about an Orthodox elder or saint, only to be slapped with an anti-Catholic passage, often based on gross misunderstanding. (Or perhaps proper understanding of my Catholic ancestors of centuries gone by who have little or no bearing on my faith.)

    It is always a tricky thing to interpret another’s faith, even after “reading history”. Whose history do I read and what meaning do I attach to it, even if the facts could be agreed upon? Just by doing a Google search regarding “forced conversion”, I find under Wikipedia a great number of examples of this practice in both Christianity and Islam. If I search the question specifically for Islam, the Islamic sites all say that forced conversion (“by the sword”) is a misunderstanding and that this is not taught or condoned at all. The same thing we Christians say. Yet people carrying the banners of both religions have done it.

    Again, I am not writing this to claim any expertise on Islam, though I have known some Muslims whose faith moved me. Are we worshiping the same God? I have no way of knowing. To use a C. S. Lewis allusion, I know that Tash is not Aslan and that Tashlan is the worst kind of heresy. But I do not know how many Emeths there are in the world who may be reading your words or mine.

    Though I am certainly not saying this of you, Fr. Stephen, there are so many Christians seeking an excuse to hate Muslims that I feel a need to make the case for love, even though I do not share many of their beliefs.

    Forgive me.

  43. Tyler Avatar
    Tyler

    Fr. Stephen,

    Thank you for your reply, and your question earlier. I think Mary expressed what I meant to say, but far more gently and eloquently.

    I’m a young-ish, struggling Orthodox Christian, who converted with my family from a distinctly Western and fundamentalist belief system. I’m so used to seeing everyone as a threatening “other,” and it’s exhausting. I’m beginning to see Orthodox Christianity as a place where I can let those divisions go. But I think that Americans with my particular upbringing have to be especially careful when drawing lines of distinction, as those lines can quickly become barriers against love.

  44. patrick Avatar
    patrick

    Over the last decade or so, the issue of Islam has captured the attention of a number of Christians. A number of books have appeared claiming to unmask Islam, detailing aspects of its theology and history that “prove” it is a threat. As a result, calls are made for Christians to learn more about Islam and educate themselves.

    Ironically, similar calls are not made in regard to Orthodox Judaism. As a result, Christians assume the rabbis are like “elder brothers in the Faith.” So, Christians never learn about what is said in the uncensored Babylonian Talmud or the theology of the Kabbalah. Why is that? Is it because Christians assume nothing pernicious could or would come from their “elder brothers in the faith?” Sanhedrin 43a and the claims in the Talmud that Jesus is boiling in Hell in excrement for his crimes against the Jewish people are never mentioned. Or, that the Talmud teaches that a Roman soldier, Pantera, was the father of Jesus and Mary a loose woman. The Talmud also teaches (Sanhedrin 408) that Black people are the cursed descendents of Ham because Ham copulated with a dog while on the ark. How are these “teachings” any less toxic for Christians or history? Or, what about rabbi Zalman of Lyady’s interpretation of the Tanya document and his teaching that gentile souls derive from evil? And yet, few among Christians know of them or could tell you the difference between Mishnah and Gemara, kelipot and sephirot, the Torah shebich tav and the Torah shebeal peh —

  45. Ignatios Avatar
    Ignatios

    Fr Stephen, bless in the Name of The Lord!

    This was a wonderful article to read. Do you have any other articles or resources that I can read more about. I would definitely like to read the holy Father’s writings about how Orthodoxy is the true faith and refutes all the teachings of Islam.

  46. Christopher Avatar
    Christopher

    “Orthodox Judaism…So, Christians never learn about what is said in the uncensored Babylonian Talmud or the theology of the Kabbalah. Why is that?…How are these “teachings” any less toxic for Christians or history”

    Well, to state the obvious:

    1) Orthodox Judaism is not on the ascendancy in either a religious (evangelical), political, or demographic manner.

    2) Orthodox Judaism has no real history of conquest (excepting perhaps a small strip of land on the eastern Mediterranean – and this quite some time ago 😉 and subjection of the people it conquers to various indignities (what history it does have in this area is ancient).

    3) Millions and millions of unassimilated Orthodox Jews are not about to change the very cultural and legal foundations of western Europe (yes, America/Canada/Australia are relatively safe for now – again because of demographics).

    4) Countless numbers of Christians are not now being brought to martyrdom by Orthodox Jews.

    I am also a little surprised about some of the posters here who seem to think that to speak of or outline the very real differences between Orthodox Christianity and the Mohammedans (or any other “world religion” for that matter) is necessarily indicative of a kind of crass, unloving, or even hate filled disposition towards them as persons, etc. The Mohammedans are unique in that their religion calls for the death of unbelievers (and this is not a perversion as it is of Christianity), has a strong political component, etc etc. etc.. No other “world religion” currently is like this. Was the medieval church of Rome just as dangerous? Perhaps so, depending on how you rate the crusades, etc. (though the Mohammedans themselves were much more concerned about the Mongols than Rome). Is some modern “Holy Roman Empire”, or the Hindus, or Confucianism, or Orthodox Jews, or Buddhists, or some militant “fundamentalist” Protestantism a real evangelical/cultural/existentialist threat to authentic Christianity or even our liberal, democratic, and secular culture in which we live? Of course not. Authentic Christianity has two robust competitors for the hearts of western man: A militant, materialistic atheism and it’s attendant neo-epicurean morality (which is increasingly being forced upon traditional Christians by the culture and the legal system), and the Mohammedans (today Europe, in 50-100-150 years the rest of “western civilization”).

    Also, a note about Wikipedia (and much of the rest of the web): It’s fine for relatively “non-controversial” topics, but for anything religious, political, or cultural it’s “community” based editing model means that partisans get into an editing/propaganda battle – and the top level editors who are almost exclusively from the “tech world” and thus are uncompromising modernists politically/culturally – they usually decide on the final edit which is why it reads like something written from a journalist (no real understanding or depth to it…)

  47. Joel Raupe Avatar

    This piece certainly touched a responsive chord, on conversations happening all around us. Islam, wearing the guise of “just another religion,” has more in common with a mass movement, and an existential confrontation seems inevitable.

    The importance of Christians being able to map out the chasm separating Christianity from Islam can’t be overstated.

  48. Meg Photini Avatar
    Meg Photini

    The current “world order” of things in Western Europe may indeed vanish as classical Rome fell, but the monasteries carried on the tradition and eventually created another great civilization, medieval Europe; and Rome itself continued in the East. Let the future come, and let us Christians be faithful to the gospel, for we have no power of ourselves to influence the course of history. Forgive me.

  49. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    Meg Photini,
    indeed, the paradoxical triumph of failure, the exultation of loss, the resurrection through the Cross is the only way. Those martyred in one way or another in the hands of Atheists, Muslims, Talmudists somehow bring about the greatest cosmic change of all. But for this, a more durable, a more substantial, a more unwavering and more perfect union with Christ is required.

  50. Mark Galperin Avatar

    Thank you, Father Stephen!

    Chronia polla.

    Mark

  51. Mark Galperin Avatar

    Thank you, Father Stephen!

  52. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    Christopher,
    I agree with your comment, but the catch with talmudists seems to be that they use far more underhand, covert methods… I have heard this time and again from insiders, and it almost seems like a far-fetched conspiracy theory sometimes, but I cannot ignore what I have witnessed so many times in my life about that particular strand of the ‘synagogue of Satan’.
    May the Lord give us unpretentiousness and discernment, ardor and unremittingness in pursuing Him only, because no matter how we approach it, “this whole world lieth in wickedness.” And (in the words of the Apostle John) “all that is in the world” in the final analysis, “is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

  53. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    All,
    I have no interest in saving civilization or the geopolitical arrangements currently effecting the planet. I wrote not long ago about the “Long Defeat,” a phrase of JRR Tolkien. We are not promised a final victory in this life. Neither am I interested in stirring up hatred against Muslims or any other religious group. Anyone who thinks they see that in my article is projecting something into it.

    I am, as always, interested in discernment within the modern culture of our Orthodox Way of life and those things that confront us and draw us away. At the same time, that same discernment is offered to others who have to negotiate their way through the cultural landscape to find a way towards the harbor of salvation.

    The “renewal of your minds” mentioned in Romans 12 is an essential part of our daily salvation as Christians. I have written endlessly about the problems of a “churchless” and “non-sacramental” Christianity – that it is a loss of everything that is fundamental to the Christian way of life as given to us by Christ. This latest article is simply one more such example.

    It does seem to me to be poignant and perhaps a wake-up call for many Christians to consider that the form of their faith is alien to the Tradition given in Christ and has more in common with the heresy of Islam (I do not consider Islam to be a world “religion” but a very successful Christian heresy – this is the general opinion of the Fathers).

    The only proper response to any human being is love – self-emptying love. But love does not mean a refusal to speak the truth. As dark as the current slaughter of innocents at the hands of radicals – darker still are their hearts and world they are creating for their own women and children. Christ enters this darkness in order to free the captives – and we must be willing to enter the same darkness.

    The darkness of mass-culture secular life has a different form – but may be darker still. We live within that darkness – and it is thus appropriate that I write mostly about that one.

    We have many commenters on this article that have never spoken before. I don’t know if they are new to the blog or not. There are certainly many new readers – for the article drew record number of views. I would encourage them to go back to read over the postings for the last few months (it’s not that many and it’s better than watching television). Look at this article in context. It’s how I wrote it.

  54. Catholic scribe Avatar
    Catholic scribe

    “On the feast of St. Nicholas in 1273, Aquinas was celebrating Mass when he received a revelation that so affected him that he wrote and dictated no more, leaving his great work the ‘Summa Theologiae’ unfinished. To Brother Reginald’s (his secretary and friend) expostulations he replied, «The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.» When later asked by Reginald to return to writing, Aquinas said, «I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw.»” (Alban Butler’s “Lives of the Saints”)

    “FIRE.
    «GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob»
    not of the philosophers and of the learned.” (Blaise Pascal’s “Mémorial”)

  55. Scribe errant Avatar
    Scribe errant

    Since you’ve mentioned Thomas Aquinas…

    “On the feast of St. Nicholas [in 1273, Aquinas] was celebrating Mass when he received a revelation that so affected him that he wrote and dictated no more, leaving his great work the ‘Summa Theologiae’ unfinished. To Brother Reginald’s (his secretary and friend) expostulations he replied, «The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.» When later asked by Reginald to return to writing, Aquinas said, «I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw.»” (Alban Butler’s “Lives of the Saints”)

    “FIRE.
    «GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob»
    not of the philosophers and of the learned.” (Blaise Pascal’s “Mémorial”)

    “…and there is no new thing under the sun.” (Eccl. 1: 9)

  56. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    I think Father, that part of the problem is that we live in a mind that is egalitarian so we are trained to find as many similarities as possible in a comparison and contrast way. When something pops up that is dissimilar it is minimized to preserve the ideology. OR for those who understand the dissimilarities it tends to be maximized and its importance highlighted.

    It is tough to consider something as it is. Certainly there are always connections but we should be able to know what we believe, who we love without reference to another. Converts to the Church have this problem in particularly. There is always the tendency to see the Church through the lens of the faith they left. When addressing Islam or Judaism we want to make sure that “ours is better”.

    The Creed does not say anything about any other faith. If one is unable or unwilling to profess the Creed, one is not a Christian. To the extent that we adulterate the Creed in thought word and deed, we loose some of our faith.

    Christ, one of the Holy Trinity
    Christ, born of a virgin
    Christ, and Him crucified
    Christ, risen from the dead
    Christ, the grantor of mercy and the forgiver of sins and therefore our judge
    Christ, the only lover of mankind
    Christ, the author and finisher of our faith and our life

    The choice as David Bentley Hart aptly put it is Christ or nothing.

    “If we turn from Christ today, we turn only towards the god of absolute will, and embrace him under either his most monstrous or his most vapid aspect.”

    As to the Muslims all I really have to say is:

    Al-Masih qam min bain’il-amwat,
    wa wati al mowt bil mowt,
    wa wahab’l hayah lil ladhina fi’l qubur!

    For those who don’t know, that is the Arabic Paschal Troparian:

    Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

  57. Allen Long Avatar
    Allen Long

    Thank you, Fr. Stephen!

  58. Samuel M. Avatar
    Samuel M.

    Devout Muslim here. I stumbled upon this article through a relative. Father, your conceptions of the Islamic perspective seem a bit strange to someone from within the traditional Islamic faith-are you saying the Quran is not interpreted within its historical context? I have only encountered that in certain salafist circles. Also, what Islamic scholars are you basing your views of the religion and Islamic philosophy upon? How does alGhazali fit into your conception of Islamic philosophy, given his impact? Thank you for your time and consideration.

  59. Scribe errant Avatar

    [Part II]

    “Francis [of Assisi] knew that book-learning and study could be useful, but he saw the temptations to pride and vanity which often came about through scholarly endeavors and he feared for the spiritual welfare of the Friars Minor. Nevertheless, he had a great admiration for theologians and teachers of sacred scripture. Francis wrote a letter to Anthony of Padua, who joined his Order, saying, «I am pleased that you teach sacred theology to the Brothers, provided that, as it is contained in the Rule, you do not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotion during study of this kind.» On another occasion he said, «A great cleric must in some way give up his learning when he comes to the Order of Friars Minor, so that he may offer himself naked to the arms of the Crucified.» God illuminated Francis’ mind and heart with a kind of wisdom that could never be obtained by mere book-learning. When a Brother asked him for permission to take a leave of absence to study, Francis told him that if he would often repeat the ‘Glory be to the Father’ he would become very learned in the eyes of God. He himself was a perfect example of knowledge so attained.” (Source unknown)

    “[John of the Cross], having finished his studies and returned to the monastic life, showed that he had a high opinion of himself on account of his great learning. To cure him, his director gave him a catechism, telling him to lay aside all other books and read this alone, picking out the words syllable by syllable, like a child. He continued to do this for a long time, and with great application, and afterwards confessed that he derived from it not only a high degree of obedience, but many other virtues as well.” (“A Year With the Saints”, 1891)

    “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” (Luke 16: 31, esv)

  60. Scribe errant Avatar
    Scribe errant

    Roman Catholics are not “People of the Book”!

  61. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    Samuel M.,
    Of course the Quran can be interpreted in various ways, perhaps even ways that are somewhat reminiscent of a basic Hesychasm [Hesychasm being the height and depth of Man’s “marriage” to God – the heart of Christian Orthodoxy] (!) – as demonstrated by some Sufism – but one of the fundamental problems of any belief that is not ‘Christian Trinitarianism’ is made manifest in the radically different fuel fueling one’s -still at the incunabular stage- relationship to their God.
    We can only discuss Islamic ‘devotion’ (as I see no point in discussing the overall ‘faith’ itself since, you can guess that on this blog someone like me considers all faiths as containing various amounts of delusion and falsehood- I am an Orthodox Christian- and the fulness of the Truth is only to be found in Orthodox Christianity) and irrespective of a person’s natural affinity and desire for union with God, when that person is a Muslim, there is no escaping the Quran’s ingrained preoccupation with believers and unbelievers and infidels (with all the behaviours it condones concerning them) , much more than with union with God…

  62. Samuel M. Avatar
    Samuel M.

    I am not familiar with christian theology so I cannot comment on the hesychasm. As for the faith remark, I don’t think we are thinking of the same definition. For I am speaking more of the sociohistorical institution with all of its attendant ideas. As for the union with God part, we do not hold that as a belief no andit seems like it makes god like human beings or a human being which I obviously don’t agree with. As for the quran- which ayats and accompanying tafsir do you find problematic?

  63. Samuel M. Avatar
    Samuel M.

    I also like to say that I am not a member of the ulema so I will not necessarily comment on some things but rather refer you to certain scholars.

  64. Cam Avatar

    Fr. Freeman,

    As always, you have written another terrific post. I do have one complaint to make, though. I am a Mormon-to-Orthodox convert and I felt this bit was in poor taste:

    “The Quran is what a misinformed desert preacher thought the Christian and Jewish holy books looked like. It is a poor substitute and a caricature of those writings. In this sense, the Quran is more akin to the Book of Mormon, a fabrication that tells what Upstate New York con-men thought an ancient religious book should look like. It tells us much about the mind of 19th century Upstate New York, but nothing about God. The Quran tells us about the perception of a 7th century Arabian merchant, but nothing about God.”

    I believe stating your disagreements and objections to other faith traditions in a more irenic fashion will set a better example and be better received by those outside the Orthodox faith.

  65. patrick Avatar
    patrick

    As a rejoinder to a point raised by Christopher, the view of gentile souls as presented by the Tanya document is not unrelated to the persecution of Palestinians and Orthodox Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere. One need only read what is said on the part of certain representatives of Orthodox Judaism to see the ideology put into practice to justify what is happening over there. I would also add that Abe Foxmen recently called for the Orthodox to revise some of the liturgical texts because he believes they are offensive to Jews. In June of this past year, a retired Egyptian military official called for the destruction of St. Catherine’s monastery. That received a fair amount of attention in some Orthodox circles. However, Foxman’s call for a revision in Orthodox liturgy was met with silence. There is also the fairly regular problem of some haredi spitting on the Cross when it is being processed in the Holy Land. One might discount these things as unimportant blips on the screen of religious conflict. What they betray, however, is a deeper issue — Orthodox rabbinic Judaism is premised on the rejection of Christ. The implications of this are evident in the so-called Noahide laws which, under Reagan and his celebration of Lubavitch rabbi Menachem Schneerson, went into law in the US. True, there is no outright enforcement of them now but the idea that they even exist should cause one to pause.

    Let me add this as well. A lack of knowledge of other religions can lead one into accepting certain things about it without realizing the threat it poses to Orthodoxy. For example, most of the yoga practiced in this country in local fitness centers is based on Hatha Yoga. Hatha yoga adopts bodily poses and engages in stances to facilitate the activation of the chakras — points within the body that can allow for the flow of divine energy. The poses used by Hatha yoga are actually reverential poses offered to various gods in the Hindu pantheon. So, when you’re at your local fitness center simply participating in yoga as a form of exercise, you’re actually adopting stances that were developed as reverential, worshipful poses towards Hindu deities. Further, these poses are intended to facilitate the release of “kundilini,” a tantric notion of the coiled serpent that rests at the spine, ready to ascend up it and activate the chakras. This has both physical and spiritual implications which is why one can find any number of websites out there discussing the dangers of yoga.

    Yet, there is a local Orthodox church — a cathedral, no less — here where I live that offers yoga classes. Dangers don’t have to be “global” — they come in different forms.

  66. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    Samuel,
    subjugation and submission to the rule of Islam as well as the use of the sword is to be found in many ayats and accompanying tafsirs (even if certain scholars take a much more transcendant interpretation of the original Arabic than what has become the harsher English translation) but forgive me that I am afraid I have little to no interest in delving the intricate details of your belief – as stated earlier, you will find Orthodox Christian believers who know that the Truth is the Person of the Incarnate God of Love (Whom the Quran aknowldges in certain Surahs at the end, although again it is a matter of interpretation how you -as a Muslim – see that). One who has found the Truth cannot be expected to want anything other than going deeper inside that same wellspring – and not looking in other wells.

  67. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    Patrick,
    indeed, if Christianity could in some absurd theory use underhand means to promote itself [as others -Islam and Hinduism- can do], then we might have created a 1500 prostrations class at a fitness club near you… 😉

  68. Christopher Avatar
    Christopher

    Patrick,

    I do see your point, and perhaps I too easily discounted it in my last post. I would not be too hard however on those who use certain yoga poses and movements as a mere form of exercise. I use a few to “unlock the spine”, however such a concept (as a mere physical movement/benefit) is present in western “gymnasium” (going back at least to the 19th century, probably before) and is divorced from any “spiritual” content.

    This reminds me of a something that happened concerning my young daughter recently. I walked into her Kindergarten class (she attends the local RC school) a few days after Sept 11th and up on the wall were finger paintings all the children had done of Holtmon’s “peace sign”. Now, it originally was created for a British nuclear disarmament movement. I would not and don’t support that, because my grandfather was to be part of the first wave to go invade mainland Japan. It later became part of the cultural revolution of the sixties. To my father, it is associated with the accusations of “war criminal” and “baby killer” he faced upon his return from Vietnam. Today, if it has any meaning at all, it is probably best associated with shallow consumerism and pop culture as it’s found on all sorts of silly places. When I asked the teacher why they did this particular project, she said “oh, it was spontaneous when we were talking about Sept. 11th”. Should such a problematic symbol be used in an educational setting, in a Roman Catholic school no less? Not really, particularly when they have far superior signs and symbols that truly represent the Peace of Christ. Would it have done any good for me to explain this to the teacher and ask her not to present this symbol to my child anymore (I gave this some consideration)? Not really – she has no real understanding of even recent history, and to her it’s probably really does mean “peace”, perhaps she even thinks of the Peace of Christ when she sees it. It did give my wife and I an opportunity however, because the next weekend we spent a part of Saturday morning talking about and drawing “Peace Signs” – and we came up with some good ones: the Cross, an innocent child, the Baptism of our Lord, etc.

    Anyways, a bit of a tangent but I thought of this when reading about the yoga happening at the Cathedral. Naive? Perhaps, but then maybe the good men and women of God at the Cathedral are part of the process in which God is “transforming” yoga into union with Himself (hard to believe I know…;)

  69. Grace Brooks Avatar

    I think that Muslims also believe that the Quran is factually inerrant … and that is what many evangelicals believe of the Bible. But that has really painted Christians into a corner as more and more scientific evidence comes to light. I wish that the Orthodox view was better known. I went to a site that worked on dinosaur bones and everyone there assumed that Christians would argue that there are no dinosaurs and that the earth is 6,000 years old.

  70. Samuel M. Avatar
    Samuel M.

    Dino,
    You keep making claims but do not provide any facts nor valid interpretations and the thing is you are, like this article, making claims about what I and 1.4 billion other people believe-and giving me nothing besides your claim and some language regarding your ownbreligious experience. Useful to be sure but if you don’t wish to engage meaningfully let me know.

  71. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    Samuel,
    Forgive me but I do not wish to engage further in what I -asking to be excused- see as a fruitless exercise of referring to other sources we probably won’t have the time to even study in any depth. There are millions of all sorts of other believers and non-believers, numbers most certainly do not equate with truth though…
    Trees are ‘known by their fruits’ and my experience convinces me beyond any shadow of a doubt that truth lies in Orthodoxy (and only half-truths everywhere else). I make a claim while perhaps not providing any facts again – besides this is not the platform to do this, it wouldn’t even fit – but I cannot conceal my faith because of this.

  72. Samuel M. Avatar
    Samuel M.

    I mean no insult Dino, and I am not challenging your faith itself. Proclaiming the truth of Orthodoxy is what this blog is for- but do you think you can make claims about another religion without having to back them up with something besides your own assertion? In fact flat out refusing to do so? Myassertionsay not be true in your eyes, but treat me as you would wish to be treated if someone were speaking on christian orthodoxy. Peace be upon you.

  73. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    Samuel,
    Claims on other religions (without the necessary ‘facts’ all being offered there and then) cannot be avoided unfortunately. The ‘Pluralism’ that characterizes modern diversity does not of course condone this. It prohibits any faith to declare the fullness of truth and claim to be the only way of salvation.
    My thoughts on this matter are that proclaiming the one absolute Truth is sort of “not allowed” (it makes it an undisputable matter). By doing so I risk being branded a “totalitarian”. It is seen as ‘preaching’ something inconveniently (and inherently) absolute – a threat to all other notions.
    Pluralism attempts to denigrate the uniquely singular and unparalleled apocalyptic revelation of Christ (“I am…”), to the conventional level of the legion of ordinary human religious experience (Theosophical Syncretism).
    This “relativism” advocates the dispute of all ideologies except for its own.

    However, Christ’s absolute claims –if studied honestly- only allow for one of two positions, (a third is mathematically impossible) these are (at least the basic) “facts” if you like, creating a ‘disquieting’ stalemate to the non Christian:
    1) one either accept that He is what He says He is (the True God, the only Way, the Truth, the Light, the Resurrection and the Life – Whom I can only love above all and accept that all others are “thieves and robbers (John 10:8)

    or

    2) I am “stuck”, unable to explain away his historical existence, since describing Him as something any less than what He claims (as, for instance, a great ‘Philosopher’, a ‘Prophet’, a ‘Mystic’ etc. etc…) axiomatically doesn’t stand to reason: it automatically makes Him the greatest and most demanding liar in existence…! He has not really left this open.

  74. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    Sorry a little correction to the above:
    My thoughts on this matter are that proclaiming the one absolute Truth is sort of considered “not allowed”

    (So I obviously would not be able to accept a belief that doubts Christ as God as serious in any meaningful way)

  75. patrick Avatar
    patrick

    Another rejoinder to Christopher — thanks for your thoughts. Unfortunately, in my reading on other faiths, I have also had occasion to read a number of books on “the occult.” While I never studied “primary texts” — for example, the actual writings of Mme. Blavatsky, Alistair Crowley, Eliphas Levy, Paracelsus, Boehme, etc, I have read more than I wish I had about them and movements associated with them.

    There is an argument to be made that the peace sign is actually an inverted todesrune, referred to among practitioners of the occult as “the crow’s foot” or “the raven’s foot.” I won’t bother to go into some of the sordid details of how it can be used and the part it plays in denying Christ. However, with these sorts of things its important to remember that there is always an exoteric meaning — a commonly accepted understanding available to the uninitiated public — and an esoteric meaning for “adepts.” In this way, occult symbols and meanings can hide in plain sight, misleading the uninformed into accepting something as morally neutral that is in fact quite sinister. How many Christians were duped into adopting the peace sign in the 60s and 70s, wearing what is in esoteric circles little more than a satanic symbol? I won’t even mention the culture this encouraged with things like “Jesus Christ Superstar” — remember when that came out in the early 70s and the way it borrowed on hippy sentiments?

    This Janus-like quality is rife in the symbolism of occultism, playing off of shadow and light, what is revealed and what is hidden. This sort of ritualization of the commonplace is used to transform consciousness — at least that’s what some occult practitioners believe they’re accomplishing. This can be seen in movies like, “The Matrix,” “Pleasantville,” “Cool Hand Luke,” “The Truman Show” and “Oblivion” — all of these are Gnostic movies that seduce and initiate the uninformed into the esoterica of Gnosticism. That’s what the matrix is or the town is in Pleasantville — creations of an evil Demiurge that only the acquisition of esoteric knowledge will allow us to escape. That is the point of view of Hollywood, where Scientology is quite popular, the same Scientology founded by L Ron Hubbard, an initiate into Alistair Crowley’s OTO at the hands of Jet Propulsion Laboratory founder Jack Parsons.

    Does this mean if you watch these movies you’ll become a Gnostic? No, but for those that do not believe in Christ or do not live the life of the Church such movies serve to prepare them for any number of “alternative spiritualities.” In this way, science fiction is the vehicle for the preparation for, and mass initiation into, of the masses for the “religion of the future.”

    Additionally, I’m guessing that Elder Paisios and other Athonite fathers would have frowned on Christians using yoga in any way whatsoever. True, flexing exercises may be very similar but their purpose is not to unleash kundalini, thereby transforming consciousness. As for what happened at your daughter’s school, if it had been the swastika I’m guessing people would have had a number of reservations, even though it’s an ancient symbol and was reversed by the Nazis. Why?

    Perhaps my reading up on the occult has made me overly sensitive but if something has its roots in darkness I don’t think Christians should have anything to do with it.

  76. Michael Cooley Avatar

    “The Bible and the Church
    The Christian Church is a Scriptural Church: Orthodoxy believes this just as firmly, if not more firmly, than Protestantism. The Bible is the supreme expression of God’s revelation to the human race, and Christians must always be ‘People of the Book’.”

    —(Bishop Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Church, p.199)

  77. James Avatar
    James

    I had never read any Koran, so I just spent 2 hours reading some, and another hour googling quotes. For one, the quotes about the Jews read like a Nazi recruitment manual. This is the worst one I saw.

    “The Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: ‘Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him;’ but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.”

    Everything I read was about how god is butterflies and candie to Muslims, and sadistic tormenter to everybody else. Bunches of verses ending with “Do not forget the cruel punishments of god”

    I had always assumed the hate speech was more subtle, and that the terrorist groups were cherry picking versus, and exploiting poor/angery/unstable people. But anyone who believes that book is the word of god and doesn’t strap on a bomb must just be using it to play scrabble.

    I apologize for my harshness, and perhaps the 10% I got through was the worst 10%? (One can hope) but I’m really shocked right now.

  78. James Avatar
    James

    Michael Cooley,

    Love Kallistos, but I doubt he is contradicting Fr. Stephen’s point. Was he responding to a criticism that the Orthodox Church didn’t put proper emphsis on scripture? It is human to swing right of your stance when criticized from the left, and vice versa. The Church, and the Scriptures are two parts of a whole. A church that rejected the Scriptures would no longer be a church. In that, it’s not wrong to say that we are “people of the book” as a passing comment. But, if you attach to the phrase the full connotation, historical context, and Implications Fr. Stephen has, I don’t think Kallistos would have stated it identically.

  79. Robert Sweiss Avatar
    Robert Sweiss

    One thing missing in most of these posts is the perception of the Arab Orthodox Christian on Islam, the 1400 years of interactions & dialogues in the Arabic language, the employment of the Arabic language in Christianity before & after Islam, Arabic scriptures of the Bible & the Quran, etc. Sam Noble recommended the book, Theodore Abu Qurra. There are many great books that can be sought and read at his Araborthodoxy.blogspot.com
    Sam’s latest book, The Orthodox Church in the Arab World, is a must read along with other great readings by Professor Irfan Shahid and Professor Fr. Sydney Griffith. I have read too many biased and insufficient writings on Islam from Westerners who mean well but produce a different outcome or misguided views full of gaps. I may take issue with those who portray the Arabic word, ‘submission’ or ‘Islam’ to mean oppression via surrender when that is not accurate. The Arabic Bible speaks of Jesus of “islaming” or “surrendering” his Spirit while on the Cross. I am reminded of “Thy will be done” as a form of submission to the Divine. These are examples of divine humility. Receiving Eucharist requires submission as the priest recites to the communicant, “the servant or slave (abid Allah in Arabic) of God”. These are some samples that non- Arabs cannot or do not see nor understand. Unfortunately in the West the Arabic word Allah is perceived as the God of Islam and not that of Christianity.Worse yet that the word Allah is derived from Arab paganism rather than from monotheism. I do believe having a strong grasp of languages or the meaning of words can fill in the gaps that we may have about our Orthodox faith or that of Islam. Muslims are seeking to know God and it is our sacred duty to share with them the gospel (injeel), the greatest news that God became man to save all of us. Amin.

  80. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Robert,
    I strongly agree about reading the newly available work such as The Orthodox Church in the Arab World.

  81. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    James,
    I couldn’t have said it better. Knowing Met. Kallistos personally, I have no doubt of his intent in his statement, nor of his agreement with my take on the matter. Blessings!

  82. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    Scribe errant,

    Since your name is new to the commenting forum, I do not know if you have been reading the blog for long. I appreciate what I assume was a well-intended comment from you but you do not know my heart.

    We Catholics share Tradition with our Orthodox brothers and sisters and we also share many saints. The schism that occurred between us was, I believe, based on nothing other than human sinfulness and needs to be healed and repented of. (I am not saying who sinned or how – not for me to judge; but we all sin and need to repent.)

    We are one Body, the Body of Christ. I celebrate that Oneness, even if imperfectly understood in our human brokenness.

    (Also, none of the Catholic priests I have spoken to have suggested that I discontinue this reading and sharing. In my area next week, there is a seminar, 28th annual, in which Catholics and Orthodox gather, that the Western church may better understand the Eastern church. So relax…)

  83. Christopher Avatar
    Christopher

    Patrick,

    “As for what happened at your daughter’s school, if it had been the swastika I’m guessing people would have had a number of reservations, even though it’s an ancient symbol and was reversed by the Nazis. Why?”

    It’s interesting, right after I replied to you yesterday I went to the store with my list in hand. Right up front was a display of body lotion that was on sale. It’s name was “Peace” and of course the “peace sign” was it’s most prominent marking. I think that answers your question and reveals just what a shallow, banal this symbol has become (assuming it ever had any real content in most peoples minds).

    I grew up reading science fiction and still do to this day (being regular subscriber to Analog, Asmov’s etc. for most of my life). It is a spiritual minefield fer sur, but I especially enjoy the writers who have some old fashioned humanism left in them (though these types of writers are becoming more scarce). It is also becoming harder to find writers who are not hopelessly infatuated with neo-Darwinian themes. Still, I occasionally find a diamond in the rough. I do see your point on the dangers however.

    Fr. Stephen,

    One of the first persons I ever met who was Orthodox actually studied under Bishop Ware at Oxford. He had one of the first printings of “The Orthodox Church” and couple of later printings (and this was more than 20 years ago now). He would point out how Bishop Ware had changed his wording on certain things (ecumenism being one example). He actually warned people off of reading him, or encouraged them to seek out an early printing. I read it anyways, and today I can see my friends point though I think it was over emphasized. Today, on the rare chance a non or nominal Christian asks me about Orthodoxy, I point them to Ware. For more traditional and serious Christians/seekers I usually go with Clark Carlton’s “The Faith”. What do you think?

  84. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Met. Kallistos is as solid a teacher of Orthodoxy as I know. There are some who are either ill-informed or deeply fearful and are constantly on guard that someone is selling out the faith. I first met Met. Kallistos when I was a seminarian (in the 70’s). I have seen him many times since, and made pilgrimage with him in the Holy Land in ’08. His reputation is unsullied and he is well-received everywhere.

    I recommend his work. He is not an “ecumenist” as some use the word. But he is an Orthodox scholar, teacher, bishop and monk who is not fearful. Clark Carlton is a good friend as well. I often serve as his confessor. He is very solid and would say the same of Met. Kallistos.

    The landscape in the 80’s and 90’s was very much colored by the strains between Moscow and ROCOR (and ROCOR with everybody else). It made for many difficulties and a lack of trust. I think great strides of brotherhood have been made in the past decade to the benefit of all Orthodoxy.

    When Met. Kallistos wrote his book he was still a layman and had been Orthodox for only two or three years. He asked not to write it but was pressed into it along with Church support. That he would edit it later is no surprise. He is a man with a great breadth of experience within Orthodoxy and across the world. He is held in the greatest esteem everywhere I’ve been.

  85. Dean Avatar
    Dean

    Mary Benton…glad you’re a ” relaxed” Catholic on this site. I’ve so enjoyed your comments these last couple years…reflections from a different facet.

  86. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    Thanks, Dean…though we might want to say that I am “a Catholic who is relaxed”, lest anyone misunderstand and think that I am relaxed about my faith. 🙂

    BTW, I perhaps misrepresented the intent of the event in my area (that Scribe errant felt a need to take a jab at). It is co-sponsored by Orthodox, Catholic and Byzantine and it’s actually the 30th annual. Fr. Thomas Hopko will be one of the speakers. Anyone in the Cleveland, Ohio area may check it out by searching the seminar name: “Icons: Witnesses to Christian Faith and Life”.

    Many of us in the Western church are woefully ignorant of the Eastern Church and I am pleased to know that there are others gathering to share and learn.

  87. anthony daly Avatar
    anthony daly

    Where (and indeed How) does one begin to disagree with virtually everything this guy (Fr Stephen Freeman) and his cronies put about? I know how ‘Scribe errant’ feels at 4:15.

    To take one example (there are zillions)
    the paragraph:

    The Bible is not the Christian Holy Book.
    Christians (and Jews) are not People of the Book.
    Submission to God is not a proper way to describe the Christian faith
    Further, any and all of these claims, once accepted, lead to fundamental distortions of Christianity. An extreme way of saying this is that much of modern Christianity has been “Islamified.” Thinking critically about this is important – particularly in an era of renewed contact with Islam.

    is TOTALLY false (and one can only assume downright malicious) in so far as (any)one can contradict each and proposition and arrive at a much clearer (and orthodox) statement of Christian Orthodoxy (eg. The Bible IS the Christian Holy Book, Christians (and Jews) {and others] ARE the People of the Book, and Submission to God IS a [perfectly] proper [if clumsy] way to describe the Christian Faith [or any other ‘Faith’ for that matter].
    Furthermore, the paragraph (article) isn’t (even) well-written or closely thought out (or even edited). Otherwise the fourth sentence would never have got in (think about it in the context of the three before it).
    Do I have time (would anyone?) to correct the (multiple) inaccuracies and shoddy (lack of) scholarship? I doubt it, but only time (rather than reluctance) might deter me. If anyone responds to this I shall attempt to.

  88. anthony daly Avatar
    anthony daly

    correction:
    …can contradict each proposition and…

    not “can contradict each and proposition”

    (You see I check what I post)

  89. MDQ Mathematician Avatar
    MDQ Mathematician

    Dear Father Stephen
    Do you know an ancient work by Count De Maistre, “Les Soirées de Saint-Pétersbourg”?

    In this book, De Maistre predicted the progressive “islammification” of Protestants.

  90. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    anthony,
    Yes. Indeed. Each of those statements can certainly be contradicted. If nuanced properly each of them could be true or false. The article provides the nuance required to understand how they are meant. The Scriptures are indeed the Christian Holy Book, but not if Holy Book is understood in the manner of the Quran. Christians are not people of the Book. I would be hard put to nuance this in a way that would change my statement. And, yes, submission is proper if rightly understood – as I described in the notion of Christian obedience.

    Badly written, poorly edited. I can easily accept the criticism and continue to work on future articles. This one was difficult – and I’m not sure that I disagree. Writing isn’t always easy.

    This is not a scholarly article – a book would be required to do justice to its thesis. If it causes anyone to reflect and think on the topic and thesis, then it was effective.

    “This guy” prays God’s blessings for you.

  91. John H Avatar
    John H

    Dear Fr. Stephen;

    I usually follow my parents’ advice and never get involved in discussions involving politics or religion, but this post has provoked so much thought I feel that I must respond briefly. Just three points.

    Firstly, a Sufi would undoubtedly interpret the Quran’s admonition to fight the jihad allegorically as a battle against the devotee’s passions and false self. The ultimate goal is fana or extinction of the false self and complete union with God. Of course, many Muslims do not understand this. Thus, for example, the Sufi Al-Hallaj was executed for proclaiming, “I am Truth” during a mystical ecstasy.

    Second, as a Roman Catholic, I believe that I am required to follow the example of St. John Paul II, who actually apologized to Muslims for the atrocities committed by Catholics during the Crusades. This was a humble recognition by the Pope that Islam is not the only religion that has converted people by the power of the sword. I presume that this also reflects the more tolerant post Vatican II attitude towards other faiths. Is Orthodoxy significantly different on this issue?

    Third, as a recovering alcoholic living in the New York City area, many members of my recovery group are Muslims. I know that they certainly do not subscribe to the notion that non-believers may be converted through the use of force. In fact, they are horrified by the current atrocities committed by extremist groups like ISIS. I believe that this represents the mainstream view of Muslims currently living in the United States.

    In general, I am a great fan of the views which you express on this blog, but I must respectfully disagree with this particular post.

  92. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    John H,
    I did not write in order to describe Islam in general – other than certain ideas that had a strong influence within Christian culture. But, I would quickly recognize that there is a mitigating presence throughout the world that tends to make us better than we might be otherwise – that mitigating presence is the grace of God which He pours abundantly on all creation. Thus, I would agree that many Muslims are better than the text of the Quran. I think of the misuse of Scripture by Christians – such as the violence of the Old Testament – as something of a heretical view. There was a plenary indulgence given to Crusaders. Orthodoxy did not extend such a thought but maintained, as always, that killing is a sin requiring penance – even if done in war or self-defense. John Paul apologized to the Orthodox as well for the actions of the Crusades. It is ironic that no apologies have come from Islam considering the many millions of Christians (even in the 20th century) that they have killed. But I welcome any embrace of peace that comes.

    The point in the article was certainly not to see Islam as a static, unchanging force. The influences from scholastic Islam and our dialogs was also a two-way street. Sufism is a good example. There are clear evidences of Christian (even Hesychast) influences within Sufism. Islam today is a very complex religion, with a very wide variety of expressions – with at least as much diversity as Christianity. And its history has to be taken on its own.

    My point has not been to vilify Islam, though I believe Muhammed to have been a fraud and a warrior – not a prophet (this is certainly the teaching of the Orthodox Church in the matter). But to offer a critique of contemporary Christian culture. My point was to suggest that Sola Scriptura is not only wrong – but even alien to Classical Christianity. No one has said anything in the comments to make me think otherwise.

  93. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father, in light of your past comments on religion it seems to me that you are not writing about the Koran as it is understood by Muslims or even about Islam per se. Rather using the most contemporary/historic example of a religious system and the violence such systems do to authentic Christianity and to Christians no matter the source.

    …and really people just because you know someone of any faith that does not fit the a general description from outside of that faith does not make the description invalid.

    I know many Protestants who are more moral, more faithful in prayer than I am. The Catholics who most often post here also appear to fall into a similar category.

    Nevertheless that does not mean that Catholicism or Protestantism are above theological criticism.

    Legalism, ideology, pedantic moralism, you name is always in the way of allowing ourselves to become temples of the living God.

    Islam as the Islamic commentator here admitted finds such an idea unthinkable. Much of Christianity including many Orthodox have taken the same path. That is the way of the world, the way of death.

  94. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    A little off topic, but some of the comments here reminded me how I always thought that Sufi Al-Hallaj is a very curious case.
    He demonstrates a few uncanny similarities with mystical Orthodox Saints (such as Saint Symeon the New Theologian almost around the same time), a singular purpose for union with a personal God (which is born first, as he says, in Man’s deepest heart) and a martyr’s death that (to onlookers) did not overcome his joy/smile.
    These are elements that have always made me think that -even for someone immersed in a tradition based on the Quran, which in turn is based on a most duplicitous religious founder (Muhammed)- humility can still attract God’s grace…
    My thoughts are that, though an Orthodox would be ‘lost’ if they ever left the fullness in the thought of finding any truth in Al-Hallaj’s Sufism;
    Al-Hallaj himself -even though he never made it all the way to Orthodoxy- might be tasting, if not the “fruit”, at least of “the leaves of the tree [which] were for the healing of the nations” (Rev 22:2)
    And I think this must be true for certain other virtious ‘outsiders’.

  95. Jack Avatar
    Jack

    I guess you would find fault in my following prayer:

    Lord God some see you through the lens of Judaism, others see you through the lens of Christianity, others Moslem, others Buddha and yes many other lenses claim you as well. The lens we see you through is not as important as that we see you!

    You said let there be light when there was nothingness and you created the heavens and the universe. Your design is present on both living and inert things. You gave your son Jesus as the way for man to have eternal life. Help us remember he is your gift to mankind that we may join you in eternal life.

    I know that I have need of your forgiveness and will try to do better; please forgive me of all my failings. Help me to share your Love with all and to restraint my sinful ways. Help me to share your gift with all. Amen!

    I guess you would say only our God is the one true God.

  96. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    Jack,
    The fact that one might be able to erect a stunning house, despite the odds in a dreadfully nasty neighborhood, does not detract from the fact that we are only allowed to build stunning houses in a regulated beautiful neighborhood. I am not just trying to present the value of what we call ‘being within a tradition’ through the above metaphor:
    What I mean is that, the fact that someone –as an exception- somehow might find some of this beauty outside of Orthodox fullness due to God’s justice, does not mean that the only ‘place’ one will safely and perfectly build his ‘eternal house’ on the Truth (Christ) is not in Christian Orthodoxy. It is.

  97. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Jack,
    I am saying that God has made Himself known to us in the God/Man Jesus Christ. People imagine many things. In Christ alone has He made true knowledge of Himself known.

    What you describe in your prayer is an imaginary God. What sins through what lens? It’s all in your head.

  98. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    Jack,

    The following little story came to my mind, when I was considering this issue in a different context, but it addresses your question to Dino.

    Suppose I had some friends flying into the airport in my city. They are coming from another country and have never been here before and do not speak the language well. The airport is some distance from my house. They call me when they land and I tell them, “Wait, I am sending my son to come and pick you up. He will bring you right to my home.” And suppose they protest, “No, no. We have met some fine people here at the airport and they said that they will bring us to you.” So I tell them, “Dear friends, you cannot trust everyone you meet at the airport. Please, let me have my son bring you. He knows the way and you can trust him.” And they keep insisting that they want to ride with the others they just met.

    They may or may not end up at my house. If they do arrive safely at my house, of course, I will joyfully let them in and forgive them for refusing my offer. But why would anyone refuse such an offer? And why would we who know the Son not want everyone to know this wonderful news?

    BTW, I like your prayer but I think that we must be very careful not to suggest that anyone who offers you a ride knows the way, even if they are well-meaning. (And not all are well-meaning.)

  99. Dino Avatar
    Dino

    Mary,
    dead on 🙂

  100. PJ Avatar
    PJ

    Interestingly, the Summa Theologiae doesn’t contain any examination of Scripture qua Scripture. It is only touched upon explicitly in the first question, concerning Sacred Doctrine, and then the real emphasis is on divine revelation, which is not wholly coincident with Scripture. Cardinal Congar, in Tradition and Traditions, demonstrates that “Scripture” was conceived of in a fluid manner right up til the Council of Trent. For instance, the writings of the fathers were often called “Scripture,” even by the likes of St. Thomas. The medieval masters wrestled with the matter of inspiration: What (if anything) distinguishes the apostolic writings from the patristic writings? This issue was only truly adjudicated in the wake of the Reformation, although long before that some distinction was noted. Just some food for thought.

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