According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power
is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. - anon

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

In "Jesus" the Muslim Allah and the Christian Yahweh Become as One Father

 
 
 
"Go beyond mere tolerance to a passion for Muslims. Nabeel Jabbour explains
how  that can be done in ways that are sensitive to Islamic culture and provides
suggestions on how to build vital relationships with Muslims."

Allah and Yahweh — The Difference Jesus Makes
 
Monday, 07 October 2013
 
Are Allah of Muslims and Yahweh the same God? Yes, when the veil is lifted from
their eyes and Muslims see Him as the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Fine-tuning
to see Yahweh as He truly is takes place through Christ. Christ is the visible image
of the invisible God.
 
Any Christian pursuing deeper relationships with Muslims eventually has to struggle with this question: Allah and Yahweh—are they the same God? This question became the topic of heated discussion at the annual convention of a notable evangelical denomination this past summer.  Delegates to this gathering were put off by a paragraph in an appendix to a minority report from a study committee working on evangelism in Muslim contexts. (Yes, it was buried that deep!) Here is the offending paragraph:
 
Are Allah of Muslims and Yahweh the same God? Yes, when the veil is lifted from their eyes and Muslims see Him as the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Fine-tuning to see Yahweh as He truly is takes place through Christ. Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
 
Pastors, elders, and theologians weighing in subsequently on denominational discussion boards and affiliated blog sites have accused the author of the statement of peddling a rehash of the old line, classical Liberalism opposed by J. Gresham Machen or of enticing the denomination to the cliff of a “syncretism” in which “Islam remains but Christianity is not needed”. The firestorm has not abated.
 
The author of the minority report, Dr. Nabeel Jabbour, a Syrian Christian by birth, is a veteran of over 40 years of ministry to Muslims in the Middle East. In his minority report and in other writings,* Dr. Jabbour amply evinces a clear commitment to the gospel and to the exclusive supremacy of Christ as the climactic and final revelation of God. The issue Dr. Jabbour raises is, rather, how best to dialogue with people who are still unconvinced: what kind of persons should we be and where should we start?


Context Matters
 
These concerns are evident even in the immediate context of the offending paragraph (repeated below in bold font):
 
There is only one God, and He is Yahweh, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the tendency of all human beings to bring down, as it were, that almighty God and to place Him in our little boxes. Those little gods that we tend to create are not the Almighty God. The Jews at the time of Jeremiah did it, although they gave him the name Yahweh. . . . Yahweh, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, cannot be placed into a box.
 
Are Allah of the Arab Christians and Yahweh the same God? Yes, when we do not have a veil over our eyes and when we do not bring Him down to become our servant who is supposed to answer our prayers and do what we think He should do. . . .
 
There is only one Yahweh, yet all people in all religions project their image of what He is like and assume that they are worshipping that Yahweh when in reality they are worshipping their own creations.
 
The Allah or God in Islam has 99 attributes, and we would agree with most of them. But the huge missing names are “Father of the Lord Jesus Christ” and “our heavenly Father.” . . . (Emphasis added; repetitive sentences omitted)
 
Critics insist that it is precisely these missing names (and attending concepts), which are so central to the Christian concept of God, that demand a complete and explicit rejection of any identity between Yahweh and the Allah--as a precondition for any meaningful discussion or evangelism.
 
An Historical Analogue
 
But consider this definition for God taught to Christian children for several centuries in certain sectors of the Church: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth” (Westminster Shorter Catechism [1674]). Most thoughtful Muslims could agree with this statement; there is nothing distinctively Christian in it. Could this definition serve as common ground in a Muslim-Christian discussion?
 
This could be pressed further: Why would Christian theologians intent on instructing future generations of the Church write such a definition? Why not follow the Apostles’ and Nicene Creed with explicitly Christian claims like, “God is the all-mighty, all-knowing Tri-Personal Creator who was active in the story of Israel, and who is ultimately revealed in the person of Jesus Christ and dwells among us in the person of the Holy Spirit . . . ”?
 
The authors of the Shorter Catechism were defining God in a context framed by a long discussion spanning over 1700 years and reaching back to Greek philosophers: the Supreme Being had to be defined first in these “essentialist” terms. The “Westminster Divines” wanted to speak into the long conversation about that particular Referent, not start a new conversation about another. Whatever its other merits and demerits, this definition is, in itself, pre-Christian if not “sub-Christian”; but that is part of the necessary price paid to intelligibly inject new meaning into an old and venerable conversation. And the willingness to join that conversation is itself an act of faith in the God who has already been at work in the great conversations of history.
 
Conceptual Help
 
It might help to borrow some distinctions from linguistic philosophy. Swiss thinker Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) described meaningful communication as the interplay between three factors:
  1. The “signifier” – the sound or marks on a page that one recognizes as a sign, in our case, the words “Allah,” “Yahweh” or “God.”
  2. The “signified” – the concept, idea, or mental content that a sign (“signifier”) expresses or evokes, in our case the different concepts and theologies that characterize the various Christian and Islamic systems.
  3. The “referent” – the actual thingor person, or set of things or persons, to which a sign (or “signifier”) refers, in our case the actual person God is in God’s self.
The critics of the offending paragraph above assume a virtual identity between their set of “signifieds” (concepts, ideas about God) and the “referent” (God). For them the obvious differences between what they mean by God and what the Muslim theologian means is so great that there cannot possibly be a common referent for a Christian and any Muslim. The Christian is thus duty-bound to start with a different “signifier” (a different name for God) or to start with a list of differences about the “signified.”  The proclamation of the absolute antithesis becomes the sine qua non of faithful evangelism.  For them the conceptual cup of shared language and concepts for evangelism is always less than half empty and the contents poisonous.
 
The author of the contested quotation, on the other hand, is acutely aware of how all our concepts and systems of concepts about God fall short of God’s true glory and that there is individual variation; not all Muslims are in precisely the same place. The cup of shared concepts is frequently half full and represents a God-engineered starting place for the mysterious process of making disciples.
 
Pauline Precedent
 
Paul is the first Jewish preacher on record who, upon observing  rank pagan idolatry, did not heap scorn on it (like the Old Testament prophets rightfully did—Isa 44:18-20, Jer 2:27, Hos 4:12) but rather used it as a starting point: “the God you already worship in ignorance is the one I want to tell you about. . . . he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him -- though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of you own poets have said, 'We are his offspring'” (Acts 17:23-28). Paul did not lead with, “Let me tell you about a different God” but rather with “This is what the God you and your poets have been groping after is really like.” Paul was alert to a rather small set of shared “signifieds” and assumed that he could talk about the same “referent”—he could start where his audience was.
 
Of course there are risks, dangers of syncretism. This, however, is the point: there are dangers on both sides. Dealing faithfully with the gospel is always a matter of walking a ridge route; one can fall off the path both to the left and the right. The gospel demands a creative faithfulness by which we avoid sliding down either the slope of syncretism (compromising the faith) or the slope defensiveness and fear (bridling the faith). [And it is] in that spirit we can join with the author of the minority report and issue the Muslim this sincere invitation: come know the Creator God more fully; discover that the one you and your poets have served as “Allah” is the God who through His Son Jesus and by His Spirit wants to be embraced as “Abba.”
 
 
* * * * * * * * * * *
 

NOTE:  Dr. Jabbour’s The Crescent through the Eyes of the Cross: Insights from an Arab Christian (Colorado Springs, CO: NAV Press, 2008) is a must read for any Christian serious about befriending Muslims and reaching them with the gospel.
 
Stephen Taylor is fascinated by God’s commitment to work in and through human history and culture—a commitment most clearly displayed in God’s sending of his Son, “born of a woman, born under the law.” Steve specializes, therefore, not only in the Pauline letters as inspired texts but also in the elements which form their historical, cultural and religious context, e.g., Early Judaism, Greco-Roman history and culture, and most radically, the career of Jesus, the Crucified and Risen Messiah.



 


 

4 comments:

  1. Well, your point needs first to prove that your Bible is true and that Jesus said that he is God is the Bible to let us as Muslims believe in that, actually both points are not solid.
    http://jesus-is-muslim.net/the-bible/
    http://jesus-is-muslim.net/did-jesus-really-say-i-am-god/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi. Well, that is the question then, isn't it? Is the Bible true? And is Jesus God (or, more specifically, the Yahweh God of the Bible)? Asked another way, if the Bible isn't true than what is truth? Philosophers have been after that question for quite a while. And if God never became incarnate then how can man ever know God? Words are debatable even as a lived life can be revelational. Without God's revelation as the incarnate (and incarnating) God, the Bible is simply a long story about a lot of religious people that are delusional. And if we are all delusional than there is no truth, and no reasonable questions. We become are own truth which I suppose makes us our own bible and saviors. Good luck with that, eh?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well, the answer is simple; I believe that Islam is the truth, God needn't be a man for us to know Him. Actually I see this a humiliation and against God's Mightiness. God sends prophets to teach us about Him, and this has been the case with all prophets before and after Jesus (Peace be upon him), and Jesus is not an exclusion. Actually for me I believe that prophets are infallible and I don't believe the stories that show them in a very bad manner in the Bible.
    http://jesus-is-muslim.net/muslim-objections-on-the-bible/

    ReplyDelete
  4. The problem with this kind of thinking is that unless God does become human we do not understand Him. From Hindu thought to early Greek mythology the pictures of God are innumerous and ill-defined (and mostly based upon a humanized idea of the ideal). And b/c most of us are doubters and cynics anyway we don't really allow for a religion or a spiritual idea to inform us how to think about God. Though I think God's revelations are clear to His prophets, priests, apostles, and church, still many are not convinced (even as you are in your preference of Islam, the Koran, and its prophets). So, for me, Jesus' incarnation was a necessity. And you see that right a way when He is questioned by the synagogue as a boy and rejected later on in His teachings by the Pharisees and Scribes. Here, the highest element of the Jewish Temple - learned and studied in the Hebrew Scriptures telling of God - and they have completely missed the simplest thing. That God is love and to love one's neighbor. Jesus repeatedly teaches this and lives it. It defies their authority and their beliefs. For this Jesus is crucified for His testimony. And even now, my side of the church sees God as Judge and Jury rather than as Love and loving. Frankly, without Jesus' incarnation the church's understanding of God is as blind as the priests in Jesus' day. Consequently there is a movement afoot to re-define Scriptures through Jesus and not through doctrine. Its the right thing to do because with a Jesus-centered Bible you get things right that aren't understood apart from Jesus. And not only do you get an incarnate God that we can see and understand, ask questions of and get replies, but you get a God who sacrificed Himself for our sin and judgment. Hence, we get an atoning God whose revelation was one of redemption based upon love. Not some nebulous idea that He is only power and the unseen hidden force. The church's crusades and inquisitions were blind to Jesus. In their doctrine was a Jesus-less faith full of religious pride and condemning zeal quite unlike the apostolic faith that served and embraced loving fellowships and mission outreach of good works and gospel. Thus, a Bible without Jesus is w/o the laser-like focus that Jesus brings to it. In Jesus is God's core and center. His essence and being. Not simply an infilling or empowerment. But God come in the flesh. Fully human. Fully Divine. A duality that is one essence. So that apart from Jesus we cannot understand God. No other human figure does this whether God ordained or called. It is in Jesus we behold God Himself. This is what it means to be the Incarnate God come before men. Peace my brother.

    ReplyDelete